The psychologist Dr. Frank Pittman is a leading expert with regards to the issue of infidelity. By far, one of the best writings on the topic is his book Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy. If you or someone close to you has been impacted by an affair, it is a must-read and is a classic on the issue of infidelity.
One of the better parts of the book is when he discusses the ways in which a couple can prevent an affair from happening in their lives. Here is a review of some of his thoughts.
Dr. Pittman maintains that to prevent an affair, you need to first protect your marriage. One of the glaring facts is this—most affairs usually occur in one of two places—in a social setting (like church) or at work. With this, we need to carefully regulate our relationships with those of the opposite sex (or the same sex, if we are attracted to those of the same gender). In terms of my work as a counselor, every person I have counseled who had an affair started this relationship in the context of friendship. If you are in a relationship with someone that might be too close, here are some of the questions you might ask yourself:
• How personal do I let these conversations get with this person?
• Do I usually only share negative details about my marriage or spouse?
• Do we sometimes speak with sexual innuendo?
If you answered these questions positively, you may be in a relationship that is moving in a wrong direction. I like a quote in the book; Dr. Pittman proclaims, “Carry your marriage with you wherever you go.” In this context, imagine your spouse is with you in every conversation, in every interaction, and with you in everything you do.
One of Dr. Pittman’s more unorthodox admissions in preventing an affair is to accept the possibility of being sexually or emotionally attracted to another person. Being physically or emotionally attracted to someone can often be common and to expect that you are never going to be attracted to someone else is simply unrealistic. If this is the case, acknowledge this attraction, and don’t hide it. This will often mean that you will need to share such information with your spouse. By doing so, this may be the one thing that takes the power out of the attraction and temptation.
Another way in which you can prevent an affair is two-fold, work on your marriage, but in the same breath, be realistic about it as well. First, work hard at striving to keep your marriage intimate. Intimacy, whether it is sexual or emotional, is the glue of the marriage and can never be over-looked no matter how many years you have been married. Simply put, be intentional in being intimate in all different kinds of ways with your spouse. Be intentional with talking to one another. Be intentional with affection. Be intentional sexually.
However, at the same time, be realistic about your marriage. No one should expect their marriage to make them happy. Accept the reality of marriage, it isn’t always beautiful and easy. Each married couple must accept that they are both imperfect and should never require the other person to be a source of happiness for them. If this resonates with you, you maybe are expecting too much from your marriage. If this is the case, what should you do? First and foremost, pay special attention to your relationship with God. Delve deeper with your friendships. Learn how to be alone. Find something to be active in that you enjoy doing on a regular basis.
As we have already said, the consequences of having an affair are serious. God says clearly, adultery will bring spiritual, physical, and emotional calamity. But Scripture is also clear that adultery is first and foremost, preventable. As an example, throughout the book of Proverbs we learn many different ways in how to prevent an affair. Its main suggestion: run. Like Joseph with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39), run as far away as you can from your temptations.
Right now, some of us need to make some changes in our lives for this to happen. Simply begin here: start by being forthright and honest with yourself, your spouse, or maybe a close and trusted friend. Let someone know what is going on. Let someone know the dangerous places you are taking yourself. Let someone know that you want to run far from your temptations, but sometimes you don’t have the strength to do so and you need their help.
Next time, I will end this series by offering a personal word or two.
Tags: adultery, affair, Frank Pittman, Joseph, Potiphar's Wife, prevention, Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy