“Did you hear about Bob and Mary? Yeah, he cheated.”
“Really? I’ve seen it coming for a while.”
Nearly all of us have been in a social setting where this conversation dominated the day leading us to ask, “Why do men do this?” Why would a man who loves his wife and values his kids engage in a relationship that is guaranteed to hurt everyone involved?
A couple of years ago I started listening to see if I could discover some real world insight into why so many men choose the risky path of cheating on their wives.
My writing had me talking on media and in conference settings about the character qualities of a healthy, holy and “hot” wife. Interestingly, men within earshot were joining the dialogue. Some spontaneously entered the conversation. Others talked among themselves as if we couldn’t hear them. It was obvious we were hitting a hot button. I began to make a list of what the men were saying. I know, I had to do some eavesdropping but they were making it obvious this topic mattered. I jotted notes after interviews on media, relationship coaching sessions or interactions at sporting events. I also started paying closer attention when I accompanied my husband on typical guy errands (auto part stores, sporting good shops, the dock or bait and tackle stores).
In the process, I discovered 5 “reasons” why men say they, or their friends, have cheated. I put “reasons” in parentheses because I don’t want you to think I am justifying the behavior. Anytime marriage vows are broken, pain ripples through the family like a tornado. Trust is shattered and kids are battered around by the insecurities of their parents. This is one of the reasons God takes such a firm stand on keeping the marriage bed active and exclusive. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4)
I share these reasons to alert all of us to the early signs of deterioration and to challenge us to invest passionately in our marriages. With each reason, you will see suggestions for both husbands and wives of how to spot the signs early and make passionate investments to affair proof your love life.
Using the acrostic CHEAT, a man who is “on the edge” of an affair might be feeling:
Criticized: By far, the number one complaint we hear is, “There is just no pleasing the woman!” One of the 52 Ways to Wow Your Husband is to select a day to‘’let your husband be right” – all day. Enthusiastically say things like, “Sounds great, Honey” or “Great idea, Babe!” Without fail, nearly every male will blurt out, “Wow, that would be nice. I would love to feel like I was a good husband, a competent leader, and an adequate provider, even if it was just for one day.” The scenario is common because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion. At first, they were co-leaders of God’s plan. “God blessed them and said, ‘… fill the earth and subdue it…’” (Genesis 1:28). Then Eve thought she had a better idea than God and we have been paying the consequences ever since. For all but the very first couple, a man’s attraction to his wife creates a longing for simple cooperation and support. A woman’s attraction to her husband creates a desire to increase her control over him. The resulting mutual discomfort lends itself to disappointment and criticism.
She Can: Let him lead. Thank him for leading. Pray for him as he leads. Be compassionate as he learns how to lead someone who would prefer to lead him!
He Can: Be the best you regardless of how your wife responds. God has called you to lead your family in such a way that everyone operates at their best. According to Ephesians 5:23, ruling means you are the head of your wife rather than the boss of your wife. The head delegates strategically to the different parts of the body (the hands do the holding, the feet do the walking, etc.). She loves it when you lead but is reluctant to follow until you prove you value her strength.
Hopeless: Some men shut down emotionally because they find dissatisfying answers to the question, “Is this as good as marriage gets?” A man gets married hoping his wife will be accepting of his strengths, insecurities, shortcomings and dreams because he struggles with being honest and authentic about who he really is in a competitive world. When she becomes disinterested or threatened by his self-disclosure, he is prone to SHUT OFF from his wife and SEEK OUT the gentle attention of another woman.
She Can: Pray for eyes of compassion. Ask God to give you ongoing sensitivity to the “less than perfect” aspects of your husband’s life. Then ask God to put a spotlight on the words, actions and behaviors of yours that seem to pull down a curtain or put up a wall between you. With each new insight, seek out healthy alternatives through prayer and observing how successful couples treat one another.
He Can: Tell your wife her actions are hurting you. If you don’t see progress over time, seek counseling for yourself and for your marriage. Seek out marriage conferences and regular marriage training as a couple through small group Biblestudies, marriage experts’ podcasts, videos, YouTube channels, and blogs. Commit to being the best husband you possibly can, then invite your wife along on the marriage enrichment journey. She might need to hear from a professional, a mentor or other wives that her words, behaviors, or actions are harmful.
Entitled: Some men think they are entitled to do what they want, when they want. They thrive on adventure so they engage in risky behavior. They love attention so they seek it wherever it can be found. This is the most obvious symptom of a life off course. A man is most vulnerable to an affair when he rebelliously believes he can “write the rules” rather than submit to God and His Word.
She Can: Pray for a miracle. Your husband will be disciplined by a loving God if he follows this path. If he softens and comes to his senses, it will be a victorious story. For the sake of your family, ask God to rescue him from this path and take reasonable steps to protect yourself from the consequences of his destructive choices, even if it means sexual abstinence until he repents and gains your trust through changing his behaviors.
He Can: Submit to God. Place yourself in structured discipleship and accountability relationships. Seek out ministries that help rewire and retrain your mind for purity like Pure Desire, Faithful and True or Celebrate Recovery. Intentionally re-earn your wife’s trust by living consistent with God’s Word and transparent with her. Give her access to your phone, lap top, any social media and your calendar so she can know your location at any time. She won’t be tempted to be a detective if you live authentic and transparent without secrets.
Abandoned: In Genesis 2:18, God said it is not good that a man is alone, which means to be isolated or “curtained off.” Many men share with us a nagging sense of being alone even though they are married. “It feels like my wife doesn’t care. I think I am the last thing on her To Do list.” It is common to learn that many couples go months–sometimes years–with no sexual intimacy. He longs to be with his wife sexually but has no legitimate outlet. In these cases the couple is in direct violation of Christ’s plan, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5)
He can: Plan romantic getaways and dates, or use Bill’s Her Best Friend phone appto romance his wife. Instead of complaining, sulking, or seeking affection elsewhere, proactively create more time with your wife and invite her into romance. She will feel valued which should eventually raise her level of appreciation and interest in her spouse.
She can: Romance him. In Red Hot Romance Tips for Women, I share 26 traits that make us a more desirable wife. There is no downside to becoming your best self. Too many women just quit caring, trying and pursuing their husband romantically and sexually. Or take it a step further and invite your mate on an 8 week journey of fanning the flame on your love life TOGETHER using Red Hot Monogamy as your personal guide.
Tricked: Flat out, some men feel cheated themselves. They proposed to a woman who was sweet, kind, caring, loving, fun and his best friend. Some wives, due to their own brokenness or unresolved issues, become controlling, overly mothering, sexually shut down, full of fears or angry. He was looking for a lifelong girlfriend. He now feels he has a second mother, an emotional project or a boss on the home front. In the absence of firm spiritual conviction, his heart wanders to someone who seems more interested in him as a man.
She Can: Address her own issues. If you find yourself neglecting your husband’s basic needs, avoiding him sexually, or engaging in a cycle of addiction (to shopping, porn, gambling, overeating, or any other unhealthy, unruly desire) get help!
He Can: Pray for a miracle. You married your wife because you saw the potential in her. Now you are watching her being captivated by behaviors that are robbing her and you. You can voice your concerns but the real answer is in her relationship with God. Protect your own heart by making healthy choices, no matter how BAD your wife’s actions, attitudes or behaviors may be. For example, instead of seeking out affection or sex, focus on building character in your children or grandchildren. Instead of wasting time on internet porn, volunteer for a cause you believe in. In short, choose LEGACY over lust.
Choose to live out God’s wisdom in relationships: “Anyone who gets wisdom loves life. Anyone who values understanding will soon succeed” (Prov 19:8 NIRV).
Pam Farrel has been happily married to Bill for 35 years, together they run www.Love-wise.com, are international speakers, authors of over 40 books including best-selling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti.
Pam Farrel is a relationship specialist, international speaker, and author of over 25 books, including the best-selling Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti. Formerly a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministries, Pam is now president of Seasoned Sisters. Pam and her husband, Bill, write a column on relationships and are frequent guests on shows like Focus on the Family.