Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

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10 Unexpected Reasons for Infidelity in a Marriage

  • Jen Grice Crosswalk Contributing Writer
  • Updated Apr 22, 2024
10 Unexpected Reasons for Infidelity in a Marriage

Most articles speaking about adultery state poor communication, unhappiness, and lack of intimacy in a marriage as the reasons for infidelity. This may be true for some but when I was searching for resources on the Internet for my adulterous marriage, I never felt writers understood what I was really experiencing.

We sought marriage counseling, only to be told our communication was mainly fine and we seemed very happy – when we did actually spend time together. The unhappiness only started after I found out that my husband had broken his vows to love, honor, and cherish and then tried to gaslight me to believe that I was crazy to think he was cheating and lying about it. And any hurt feelings I had about his destructive behaviors weren’t allowed because that meant I was unforgiving and judgmental.

Furthermore, the first of several affairs happened while we were actively trying to conceive a child. I found out I was pregnant just days after he announced he was in love with his secretary and divorcing me to marry her. I felt the deep hurt of betrayal trauma. It ended up ruining my marriage because I could no longer stay on the emotional roller coaster of repeated adultery. This habitual pattern was physically killing me.

There are many reasons for infidelity in marriage but there are never any excuses. Adultery is not a misstep, oversight, or a mistake. It is a series of deliberate choices and sins that one person chooses to make. Some affairs start for the obvious reasons but today I’m sharing the unexpected reasons, the ones very few Christians talk about. I know this topic well because I survived it for more than a decade.

  • 1. Lack of love and respect.

    1. Lack of love and respect.

    I think we’ve all heard that men need respect and women need love to keep a peaceful marriage. But I would also add that without love and respect towards either spouse, a marriage is put in jeopardy because these two things go hand in hand. If you love someone you will respect him or her. You wouldn’t want to intentionally or unintentionally hurt them, especially with deception.

    Instead, you’ll make sacrifices against your own selfish nature and continue to try to show your love and respect to the person with whom you’ve committed your life. This is living according to God’s Word, as well as the vows that were made.

    “Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.” – Titus 2:2 NLT

    Infidelity is not only a lack of self-control, but also a lack of love and respect. It’s a choice to cross boundaries and allow sin to destroy any security that was built in a relationship. It’s like take a sledgehammer to a leaking faucet. What could have been an easy fix is now complete destruction.

    Love has boundaries to protect the heart, feelings, and the marriage vows that were made from being destroyed. That’s why we call adultery a betrayal trauma and why Jesus stated it was grounds for divorce.

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  • 2. Lack of personal and commitment boundaries.

    2. Lack of personal and commitment boundaries.

    Boundaries are limits you place on yourself to protect yourself, and those you love, from being emotionally hurt. They’re tools to help you and your relationships, not to control you or others. Boundaries are fences with gates that keep the good inside the fence, protecting it from outside evils that seek to kill and destroy. The key to boundaries are setting healthy standards and then sticking to them.

    We practice a healthy boundary when we decide not to go on a private lunch date with the man we find attractive that is not our husband. When we don’t talk about marital disagreements with an opposite sex friend. And when we don’t flirt and look for comfort in another’s spouse when we’re feeling lonely. Instead, we assert clear lines between ourselves and someone who is not our spouse or family.

    A person who doesn’t practice personal boundaries in order to keep the commitment made on their wedding day will allow infidelity to creep in. Even single and divorced woman should honor the sanctity of marriage, even if it’s not her own. We all should.

    Joseph’s life, as told in Genesis 39, gives us a great example on how to flee from this sin, even while at work.

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  • 3. Selfish and self-centered thinking.

    3. Selfish and self-centered thinking.

    A self-centered person only focuses on himself or herself most of the time. In doing so, they’re unable to think about how their actions of infidelity may deeply wound another person. And they lack consideration or empathy to understand and accept those hurt feelings once they do deceive and cheat.

    They often only do what is best for themselves–beyond the healthy actions of self-care. They may make excuses for their choices but it all boils down to the fact that they put themselves first in every situation. They commit adultery because they give in to evil desires, to make them happy, rather than doing God’s will.

    “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” – James 3:16 NLT

    A self-centered person will have no remorse for ruining relationships, because it’s all about what they’re getting rather than having a servant heart. Those who commit adultery may exhibit narcissism and some of these others characteristics as well.

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  • 4. Lack of contentment.

    4. Lack of contentment.

    Any one of us can face times of discontentment. We may wish we had the blessings we see other people enjoying. But when our lack of contentment causes us to chase after what is not ours to have or own, we get caught up in sin.

    A person who is never content with what they have is always seeking something or someone better. They always need more – more admiration, more attention, more stuff, and more money – trying to fill a void. But their needs are never satisfied, because it’s a holey bucket that can only be filled by the Creator.

    When this person divorces one spouse to marry another, it’s not because the second is better than the first, it’s just that the adulterer is never content with the gifts God has given him or her.

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  • 5. Lack of integrity.

    5. Lack of integrity.

    A person who lacks personal and commitment boundaries may also lack integrity or a moral compass to tell them where a line should be drawn or where it should not be crossed. Dishonesty and deception is a pathological behavior and a habitual choice.

    He or she may not feel guilty when lying and deceiving because the conscience can be seared from the repeated behavior – probably without consequences. And even when faced with the truth, they’ll lie or gaslight the person confronting them because they still think they can convince others that they’re telling the truth. They may state that being trusted is most important to them even if they’ve never been a trustworthy person.

    A dishonest person will have practiced his or her lying so much that it will be hard to know when they’re truly repentant. Rebuilding a moral character will take years, especially after serial infidelity, but they may never have the desire to put in the time and energy to prove their integrity.

    The book of Proverbs calls liars fools because even after destroying all relationships and themselves, they’ll continue with their same behaviors. They may even believe they’re above any moral or legal law.

    “But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself.” – Proverbs 6:32 NLT

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  • 6. Serial adultery.

    6. Serial adultery.

    A serial adulterer might commit infidelity out of selfish habit, lack of integrity, a sexual addiction, or many other reasons. Instead of stopping their sinful choices, and practicing repentance, they keep repeating the pattern over and over again either with the same spouse or a new one. In the same marriage, each subsequent act of infidelity is even more damaging than the first.

    Repeated adultery is not possible without deception. And those who repeat deception without remorse lack integrity (see again #5). Unless the adulterer is willing to undertake the long-term commitment of behavior modification, including total transparency and openly practicing true repentance, as well as a heart change for themselves and not just to be rewarded (keeping the family intact) we can only assume they’ll never stop.

    What if he says he’s willing to go to marriage counseling and ready to change? Seek help and work on yourself. Like myself, you need to figure out why you keep allowing yourself to be disrespected in such a harmful way.

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  • 7. Unresolved childhood issues.

    7. Unresolved childhood issues.

    We’ve all experienced pain at one point or another in our lives­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­–maybe some more than others (not that this is a competition). Anyone with unresolved childhood wounds can make destructive choices and do things to hurt other people. We often hear, “hurting people, hurt people.” But I believe hurting people can heal their wounds with professional help instead of taking a sledgehammer to every relationship.

    Also, not all hurting people make the choice to hurt others because of their pain. Some of us have learned to have compassion for the hurting and reach out our hand in support, after a time of healing. Being destructive and hurtful is still a choice someone is making. We should have empathy for them while encouraging them to seek help to heal those wounds, knowing infidelity is not going to solve their issues. Enabling only allows them to continue in their destruction.

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  • 8. Midlife crisis.

    8. Midlife crisis.

    Getting old and aging is hard for some people. Wanting to feel young again and the adrenaline rush that comes with living free from adult burdens, like preparing for retirement or paying for an adult child’s college education can cause one spouse to abandon their life and seek out a younger mate, as well as that lifestyle.

    This is not an excuse but still a choice that someone makes. It could be linked to mental illness or to selfishness, as I stated earlier. Again, any person can seek help for their issues, unhappiness, or worry for the future. Acting on feelings is destructive and still leads to pain and consequences for those who are left behind.

    Only God can replace the years the locusts have taken. Leaving a long-term committed marriage for a much younger (or any aged) spouse is not a blessing from God. It’s only temptations from the enemy, whose main goal to see all lives filled with destruction. Infidelity is one of his main sledgehammers.

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  • 9. Sexual addiction.

    9. Sexual addiction.

    I often get asked if a sexual addiction excuses one’s infidelity or if we as Christian women should allow it in a marriage. My answer is always the same. Anyone can get help for his or her addiction no matter what it is. Resources are available to all who seek help, put in the effort, and secure accountability to break free from that bondage.

    With denial of the problem, making excuses, and/or blaming someone else, the addicted person will continue on the path to destruction. This is also a huge red flag for more serious emotional problems that won’t be solved with a little love and prayer. In Alcoholics Anonymous, and other recovery programs, families learn that assertive boundaries with consequences are necessary in order to truly help stop the addiction. Even James Dobson said, “Love Must Be Tough.”  

    Sexual addiction is not an excuse but just another reason why infidelity happens in a marriage.

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  • 10. Revenge.

    10. Revenge.

    Blaming someone else for actions we took is one way we can feel better about those choices. A lot of adulterers blame the innocent spouse by saying they felt lonely, sexually deprived, and needed to seek attention elsewhere. Also, when someone says, “I wouldn’t have done ___ if you had or had not done ___” they’re using revenge-based thinking and actions to try to fix a problem within a relationship. This fixes nothing and only makes things worse (that sledgehammer again).

    Instead, an emotionally healthy person will assertively address a relationship issue – like lack of intimacy or needs not being met – by having one or many conversations about the problem. Being hurt is not an excuse for destructive behavior, but often adulterous people try to use it. And we as a society seem to accept that as an excuse, don’t we?

    Participating in infidelity merely to get needs met and/or hurt someone else is not only selfish but also revengeful. It shows lack of love or respect for that other person. Each of us can make choices that show our self-control and integrity even in times of temptation.

    “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

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