Feb 14, 2013

The Slow Fade... How Infidelity Happens

Happy Valentine's day!  In contrast to this day that smells of Cupid farts, roses and chocolate... I thought I would introduce my new series.

This is the first in a three part series I am calling:

 Do you and your spouse ever discuss what you would do if either of you ever "cheated"?

My husband and I have talked about it, at different points in our 13+ year marriage, in both humorous and not-so-humorous ways. (So far, we've both been faithful... so this is no confessional.)

With a lot of family history (on both sides) of infidelity, it's hard to stand up tall and say "That would NEVER happen."  I'm NOT saying that we are planning to struggle through this.  We do what we can to protect ourselves and our marriage against it... but to say "it could NEVER happen to us" is both dangerous and foolish.

"You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations." 1 Corinthians 10:13 (CEV) Emphasis added by me.

This is another great post on this same topic, good to read if you are saying to yourself "I would NEVER do this."

So, HOW does this happen?  Dr. Ronald Rickner, who has counseled hundreds of pastors and ministry leaders, many of whom have been caught in adultery, spoke at a workshop I attended last month and talked about how seemingly smart people, who love God, end up going down this road.

First, let me share how Carl Whitaker, a famous Psychologist, defines infidelity or an affair: The giving of your energy, attention, focus, emotions, to some inappropriate person or activity, in a way that meets your needs and/or helps you escape a noxious situation, or avoid pain.

Let me be clear.  Emotional affairs are STILL affairs.  Secret Facebook conversations that dabble in the flirtations and heartfelt intimacies is playing with fire.  Long lunches with a opposite sex co-worker who is "just a friend"... but where you talk about your spouse or commiserate together about your lives is walking a very thin line. 

The Titanic was the "unsinkable ship".  The captain, Edward J. Smith, was a veteran, not a novice, he had logged more than two million miles as a captain.  At sixty-two and twenty six years with the White Star Line, Titanic's first Atlantic crossing would be his last before he planned to retire.

Yet, somehow, he ignored the warnings sent from ships ahead of him that there were icebergs in the water.  He ignored the concerns of his crew that they were lacking the necessary tools (binoculars) to safely navigate the water at the speed they were going (because he was in a hurry). Some accounts say he chose to not have the necessary evacuation drill early in the voyage.  Other accounts say he knew, but did nothing, when it was brought to his attention that there were not enough life boats for the number of people on-board.  

He made what sounds like a number of small errors in judgement that added up to 1500 people dead in the water.   No one wakes up one morning a suddenly says "HEY! I know I promised to love this spouse forever, but I think I am going to risk it all and go have sex with this near-stranger".  The "slow fade" is a series of seemingly SMALL choices that slowly take you away from intimacy with your spouse (and usually, intimacy with God), that result in an environment that makes infidelity more likely (though not necessarily unavoidable).


1.  They believe the powerful lies
(That we deserve it, that it's okay because "it was meant to be") John 8:44 calls Satan "a liar and the father of lies.", while the John 14:6 says that God (in the person of Jesus) is "the way, the truth..."
2. To avoid, escape or stop pain or discomfort
Sometimes life is hard.  Why wouldn't you want to do something that makes you feel good (even for a short time)?
3. It can come out of an attempt to comfort
Many Pastors fall into this trap during counseling sessions.  Caring, protective concern can quickly be misunderstood and twisted into something else.
4. To feel powerful, good, alive, connected, excited (because they feel dead inside)
If you feel nothing, something, even dysfunctional emotions, are better than nothing.
5. To meet legitimate needs (physical and emotional)
People WANT to feel loved, want to be touched, to be significant, important, cherished.  If they don't get that from a spouse and someone else gives that to them, it's very tempting.

None of these are GOOD reasons to have affairs.  None of these are acceptable excuses.  But they are some of the reasons why seemingly Godly men AND women fall into this temptation.  Conservative estimates of the percentage of married people who admit to having an affair range from 13%-20% (Forbes, 2009).

Let's look at common "risk factors" associated with people who are more likely to commit sexual sin.
1. People whose family of origin was neglectful or abusive.
According to three different studies on those who struggle with sexual sin, those who grew up in a home that  failed to provide emotional or physical nurturing were more likely to cheat.
2.  People in the midst of situational distress.
Many affairs begin during a deployment (in the military), after the death of a loved one, during counseling sessions, or during any other time in life that causes or exposes neediness.
3. People in the midst of marital problems
4. People who lack self-awareness.
Ultimately, people who are unaware of and in denial about their situational problems and/or emotional needs.  These unacknowledged needs are powerful. Proverbs 20:5 "Someone’s thoughts may be as deep as the ocean, but if you are smart, you will discover them."
5. People who are isolated
This is not always caused by another person or intentional, sometimes a person can isolate them-self from their spouse by everyday activities and busyness.
6. People with Buried or Ignored Pain
If you have unresolved baggage, you may be more likely to try to "escape" from it by engaging in risk-taking behaviors (including extra-marital affairs).

 So, what do you think?  Do you agree with the reasons people have affairs?  Do you have any to add?  Do you agree with the risk factors?

Check back next week for part 2 in the series - Warning Signs


  1. I can HOPE it never happens in my marriage. These are all good tips and advice on how to avoid this trap. And, it is a trap...Satan is pretty cunning. I imagine he can help people rationalize their reasons for affairs.

    1. :) I'm with you. Hope is a good way to go. The warning signs were pretty eye opening for me too (I will post those next week). :) Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  2. Alissa...I love this...people always think it won't happen to them, and so they are never on the offensive, I am going on 19 years of marriage, and I can honestly say that communication has been the key for us, especially in the era of Facebook and reconnecting with friends...can't wait to read the next parts in this series. :)

  3. I don't have anything to add, but wanted to say that this is a great post. Too often, Christians are told that their marriage can be made "affair proof" or "divorce proof" by paying sole attention to meeting physical needs. Is it important? Yes. However, nobody can, through their behavior alone, guarantee their spouse's faithfulness. Thank you for addressing this so thoughtfully.

  4. Great, well written post! I love the info you provided and the bible references throughout. And I agree with Christie above - in the era of so much social media and the ability to connect so much more easily, communication is so important! Looking forward to the rest of the series!


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