5 Risky Behaviors That Could Lead to an Affair

A recent study by The Gallup Poll found that Americans view cheating on your spouse as the most morally reprehensive thing that anyone could do – over abortion, human cloning, suicide, polygamy, and divorce. Divorce, however, was listed as one of the most morally acceptable behaviors, with 68% of responders approving. Although there are no clear statistics on how many Christian marriages are affected by infidelity, The Barna Group made a startling discovery in their research of the “Buster” generation (those in their 20’s and 30′) in 2006, stating, “it is striking to see sexual behaviors and attitudes that were uncommon now becoming part of the accepted, mainstream experience of young people.” The Vice President of the Barna Group added, “We expect to see this mindset of sexual entitlement translate into increased appetites for pornography, unfiltered acceptance of sexual themes and content in media, and continued dissolution of marriages due to infidelity.” It appears that although people find infidelity to be one of the worst things that anyone can do, we as a society are on a fast-track to seeing those rates rise more and more.

With Christian divorce rates rivaling those of unbelievers, it should be of no surprise that thousands of Christian marriages each year are also affected by infidelity. It seems that each year in the media, another prominent Christian leader has been involved in an extramarital affair. In our own marriages, we have to look closely at the reality that we, too, are susceptible to sin. The enemy desires to tear down marriages, and our own relationship is not exempt.

If we could identify risk factors for extramarital affairs, what would they be? Could we prevent it happening in our own lives? We may not be able to control the actions of another person (i.e. our spouse), but we can take preventative steps to guard our own hearts against temptation. Here are five potential risk factors for an extramarital affair:

  1. Lack of clear boundaries with the opposite sex. If you or your spouse think it’s okay to be alone with someone of the opposite sex (who is not your spouse), beware. I remember years ago hearing of a friend who was going to the movies with a co-worker who was the opposite sex. She was married, he was not. “He’s just a friend!” she told me. Her husband knew about it, but I still had a knot in my stomach. Bad idea. Thinking of heading out alone with a co-worker for lunch or drinks after work? Also not a good idea. Keep doors open if you are meeting with someone alone; have agreed-upon boundaries in your marriage about situations like this. You would be surprised how common these things are and how easily they can be overlooked.
  2. Involvement with pornography. A new study by the University of Central Florida found higher rates of infidelity among those who viewed pornography versus those who did not. In a Focus on the Family poll taken in 2003, 47% of Christian families said pornography is a current struggle in their home. Pornography not only degrades sexuality, but has a deep effect on our relationship with God. When we turn off the voice of the Holy Spirit in regards to this issue, it is easy to turn off His conviction in real-life situations as well.
  3. Lack of accountability. If there is nobody in your life or your spouse’s life holding you accountable and asking you the hard questions, giving into temptation will be much easier. Seek out an accountability partner, tell them your struggles, and have someone you can call when (and if) you are tempted.
  4. Poor lifestyle choices. In many situations of infidelity, alcohol or drugs often played a factor. These lower our inhibitions and impair our judgement. The company we keep can also greatly affect our own actions. What conversations are you involved in? What environments are you walking into? Not making wise decisions, even in seemingly small areas, can eventually lead us down the wrong road.
  5. A weak relationship with the Lord. I recently heard of a couple who met on the worship team at their church and had an affair with each other. Going to church and even being involved in leadership does not exempt you from temptation; it also does not mean that you have a strong relationship with the Lord. Staying in the Word daily, having accountability, a strong prayer life – these things will all help to guard your heart. However, the decision is still yours. If you are tuning out the conviction of the Holy Spirit in an area of your life, this is a symptom of a deeper problem. Ask God to restore your relationship with Him, and make the adjustments He is asking you to make.

So what do you do if you have made commitments in these areas, but your spouse has not? A wise person once told me, “You work on keeping your side of the street clean.” You are not responsible for your spouse’s actions, but you are responsible for your own. Make sure you are doing everything you can to honor God in your relationship. Take an honest look at yourself to see if you are prone to one or more of these risk factors. All of us can make improvements in one or more of these areas.

When we take a look at the little things in our lives that contribute to the big things, we can often avoid catastrophe. Talk about these risk factors with your spouse and make a renewed commitment to affair-proofing your marriage together.


Jaimie Bowman is a pastor's wife, speaker and writer who lives in Southern California. She loves speaking truth and grace into people's lives and helping them find their unique purpose. Together with her husband and two sons (ages 6 and 8), you can often find them trying to find new places to explore. You can find out more about her at JaimieBowman.com and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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