Today marks 16 years I have been married. Happy Anniversary, Honey! I hope you enjoy the e-bouquet of cyber flowers I sent you. No, I didn’t spend a lot of money on that token of our love. In fact, I signed up for a 30-day free trial, so it cost nothing. Don’t worry, I will remember to cancel before they charge your credit card.
While we have not been married as long as some of you, let me share some of what we have learned about keeping a strong marriage and how to prevent an affair.
The secret to a long marriage
Let me tell you about my love life before I met my wife. First, there was Janelle. I was 9 years old when I saw her at a camp meeting in Manitoba. She and I arrived at the water fountain at the same time. I took a drink. She took a drink. I had butterflies in my stomach. We took a walk together—sort of—we were both heading in the same direction. I was too scared to say anything to her. She never said anything to me, but I was smitten. I begged one of my buddies to get her address for me. Then I forgot about her.
Then there was Kelly when I was 11. I had not met her, but it was Christian skate night in Bourbon, Indiana and she was there somewhere. My friends begged me to “go out” with her. I wanted to meet her first, but we argued about it so long that she left before I could. We were leaving the next day, but I agreed to a long-term relationship by mail. She did not even attend church. She wrote a few times, but I never responded. Alas, I don’t even know what I missed!
I went through a couple other one-week stands like this before I met Terra Don when I was about 13. She seemed different. She did not seem gushy and mushy. We talked and hung out together in her youth group in Ohio. She opened up and told me her struggles of living for God in spite of her home life. I cared about her needs and even prayed for her. One day we were riding in the church bus to a youth event at an amusement park. We were all laughing and talking when suddenly I felt something squirreling in my hand. I looked down and she was trying to hold my hand! I had no such feelings for her, I just saw her as a friend. I jerked my hand away, feeling like my innocence had been robbed.
I had ignorantly tapped into a key to man-woman relationships. Since I had met her emotional needs, it was just logical for her to take the next step. Most men do not understand this secret and how it can cause or prevent an affair.
Lasting marriages meet emotional needs
I met Leanne when I was 12. We hit it off well because we were both just looking for friendship. We saw each other three times that first year we met, and began writing often. When we got together we laughed a lot. Although we could not comprehend it at the time, we were meeting each other’s emotional needs.
Since neither of us were looking for a hand-holding relationship, we grew to trust each other and shared our hearts. We studied God’s Word together. A couple years into our relationship we moved from just talking about facts and opinions to sharing feelings—not about each other, but about hurts and hopes. She became vulnerable and told me her needs. I prayed and fasted with her, even though we were half a continent apart.
Only after four years of devoted friendship did we begin sharing our feelings toward each other. We took care to not let things move too fast. We married in honor, setting an example for our kids that you can keep your virginity and your first kiss for your wedding day.
Emotional infidelity prevents long marriages
I had been married about two or three years when I saw how vulnerable a marriage can be and learned how to prevent an affair. I was installing vinyl siding on a home in New Hampshire. It was winter, so the guys and I would go inside to warm up from time to time. Only the Mrs. was home, her husband being away at work. During our warm-up breaks, we would chat with her. At one point she got to talking to me, the others having climbed back onto the scaffolding to continue the job.
She said, “I came home from work to raise my son, but some days I get so lonely. I love him to death, but some days I crave adult conversation—it gets old just talking to a 6-month-0ld.”
I felt bad for her. Somehow we got onto discussion of teas. My wife and I were into health teas. Then, I got back to work, thinking nothing more of it. A few minutes later, she came out and gave me a hot cup of tea. My guys raised their eyebrows. I heard bells going off in the back of my mind.
When I got home I told my wife how bad I felt for this lady. Duh, my wife was stuck home raising a toddler, too! She said, “Well, if she needs some adult company, I will have to go pay her a visit.” Now lights began to flash as the bells went off.
Now, if I were to accuse this lady of pursuing an affair, she would be shocked—nothing could have been further from her mind. Or mine. But too many men and women lay the groundwork for an affair without even realizing it.
Keep a long marriage by preventing emotional affairs
Most affairs begin because a man allows himself to become intimate with a woman he is not married to. She shares her heart and he listens. Once they become one in spirit, it is only a matter of time before they unite physically. This is more than some girl grabbing for his hand. This rips homes apart.
Men do this easily today since the woman’s revolution put women in close proximity to men they did not previously know for eight hours a day. If a man could spend eight hours a day with his wife, most likely they would become intimate, too. Intimacy occurs too often in the work place and co-workers develop trust in each other.
When two become one in heart, they will become one in flesh. Adultery does not just “happen” to people. The wise man guards his heart from becoming intimate with a woman other than his wife. The wise woman draws her husband until he trusts her and can be intimate about his concerns and needs. Once he is able to be real with her, he will find it natural to listen to her needs and fears.
Long marriages meet emotional and physical needs
Do you know the difference between friendship and flirtation? To help you hear the bells and seen the warning lights flash, read the following articles:
Today as a minister, I refuse to counsel women alone. Not only that, I do not think much good comes from a woman telling another man about her husband’s faults in any setting. A woman in a troubled marriage needs to develop intimacy with the Lord. If she has hang-ups between her and hubby, only God, not some counselor, can change his heart. Marriage counseling together can do good, but simply developing intimacy at home and not outside it, will save many marriages and prevent affairs.
Learn the five levels of intimacy in marriage and make sure you do not develop them with an innocent-looking bystander. This has kept my marriage together for 16 years with five children. Now you know the secret to a long marriage and how to prevent an affair!