My life had become a nightmare. Practically overnight, since I’d admitted having an affair to my husband, I’d lost everything. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t get off the treadmill of fear, shame, and despair. The hours, days and weeks dragged on as I waited for the pain of colossal regret to subside.

I was the last person anyone would have expected, including myself, to commit such a life-shattering sin. I’d been educated in a Christian school, memorized hundreds of scriptures, and had been involved in ministry for years. I had an earnest desire to please God, and I continuously sought to develop my personal relationship with Him. Having an affair, in my opinion, was one of the worst things a believer could do.

My experience taught me that no matter how sincere our faith or how pure our intentions, an affair can happen to any of us. None of us will ever reach a level of spiritual maturity where we can relax and trust our flesh. Scripture warns us that “the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41) and that Satan lies in wait to trip us up (1 Pet. 5:8). If King David, the “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), fell into adultery, can we consider ourselves immune to the temptation?

Fortunately, there are ways we can guard ourselves against an affair. The first step is to recognize the lies Satan plants in our minds that may propel us in that direction. Here are five falsehoods that Satan used to lead me down the path toward adultery …and the truths that eventually set me free.

Lie #1: What I think about doesn’t matter as long as don’t act on it.

My life seemed too ordinary, especially compared to the movies and romance novels I took in. To escape the monotony, I began indulging in private fantasies. Passion, mystery, and physical beauty were at my beck and call—I just needed to use a little imagination.

Although these fantasies charged me up emotionally and fed the fire of lust with exhilarating and forbidden pleasures, I did not believe they were a threat to my spiritual growth, relationships, and ministry. No one knew. No one would get hurt …or so I thought.

The Truth: Our thoughts become our actions.

Few people fall into adultery overnight. As with other “big” sins, having an affair is usually the result of a series of small compromises in our thoughts, choices, and behaviors.

At first, my thoughts about the fantasy men I encountered in books, magazines, and movies seemed harmless. But these thoughts soon became a trap. Like a forest fire, the lust they stirred up required more and more fuel until feeding it consumed most of my time and energy. When I wasn’t fantasizing, my life was colorless. I became more self-centered, detached from my family, and cold toward my husband. Pretty soon, other little compromises in my behavior didn’t seem so bad.

It took many years before my conscience was desensitized enough for me to give in to an affair. But it did eventually happen. From the ashes that remained, I learned the truth of Jas. 1:15: “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Ultimately, my fantasies about other men led me into an affair that contributed to the death of a marriage.

Lie #2: I would be happier with someone else.

Because of his job, recreational activities, and the time he spent with “the guys,” my husband wasn’t home much. When he was home, his attention was riveted to the TV. I was extremely lonely, and I resented his lack of attention to our family and me. We had married at a young age, and I wondered if I had missed something better.

I frequently dwelled upon my dissatisfaction with my marriage. Constantly comparing my spouse to fictional men gave me a deeply critical spirit, so that nothing he did was good enough. I expected him to make me happy, and I felt sorry for myself when he disappointed me. Surely other men would treat me better, I thought. To soothe my self-pity, I escaped deeper into inappropriate thoughts, relishing attention from other men.