In order to understand affairs and how they happen, you need to understand the basic concepts here on the site. The concepts we use are very simple, but they are great tools that give you the added support you need to build a strong marriage, or to recover from the damages of an affair.
When we speak of love, we use two entirely different concepts. It may be a weakness in the English language, but we seem to be stuck with it. Most people, when they hear the word ‘love’ understand it to mean the emotions of affection and desire you feel with regard to another person. This term is so pervasive that the original meaning of the word ‘love’ is almost entirely forgotten. We speak of ‘falling in love’ but what we really mean is ‘experiencing a strong affection and desire’. Thus, ‘love at first sight’ is really ‘strong affection and desire at first sight.’ There is nothing wrong with this – but if it is the entire basis for a marriage, the marriage is almost guaranteed to quickly run into problems.
This is why the second concept is far more useful. The second use of the word ‘love’ is the Biblical meaning of the word: to treat another person in a way that is absolutely best for them. This usage of the word love is found throughout Scripture, along with explanations of ‘what is best for other people’. When we love our spouse biblically, we treat them with patience and kindness. There is no envy, boasting, or pride. We refuse to dishonor our spouse, refuse to satisfy ourselves at their cost, we are not easily angered, keep no record of wrongs. We refuse to delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. We always protect, always trust, always hope for the best, and always persevere in our commitment. We obey Jesus’s command to love our neighbor as much (or more!) than we love ourselves.
This second concept of love is not something that ‘just happens’ to us. It is something we consciously learn, practice, and make into a habit. It far outlasts the first concept of the word. In fact, to follow the second concept can cause the first to happen over and over again, always involving the same person – our spouse!
There are practical ways to ignite the first definition of the word love (affection and desire). We use the concept of a campfire to illustrate this, but you can also keep in mind that deliberately working on the Godly definition of love is the same process. THE most basic concept is that affection and desire (emotional love) is a response to the commitment to treat someone in a loving way (Biblical love).
As a metaphor, think of your marriage as a campfire. There are actions that people do to stoke the fire of love and make it hotter–those are Love Kindlers. Much as adding fuel to a fire keeps it burning, makes it brighter and warmer, so concentrating on Kindlers, making them part of your daily interaction, builds the fire of your marriage. There are actions that people do that are like putting water on a fire–some are like dribbles out of a bucket full of holes, and some are like dumping a big bucket of water on the fire. Smothering a fire will eventually put it out. Actions that kill the fires of your love are Love Extinguishers.
Falling In Love – the awakening of affection and desire
When a couple first meets there are no Love Extinguishers…and at the same time there are TONS of Love Kindlers. Think about it! People “in love” tend to spend a lot of time together; they talk to each other and get to know each other; they actually stop and listen; they do fun things together; they look good for each other and flirt. They do all they can to avoid hurting their partner, instead concentrating on acting with love. All these actions are kindling the fires of love. All these actions are Love Kindlers. The things they avoid are Love Extinguishers. Looking at it from a Biblical perspective, the two deliberately choose to act in a way that expresses love to the other.
And sure enough, the fire of love blazes and they get married.
Real Life Intrudes
Even if they keep up every Love Kindler, in that first year of marriage they start to see a couple of Love Extinguishers. Things like hanging the TP upside down, or not squeezing the toothpaste tube from the bottom, when your spouse has told you this bothers them. Silly, really, but they are little drips and drops. Then enter a more few Love Extinguishers. Maybe the wife is not a great money manager (or the opposite, a controlling penny-pincher); the husband works many hours so they don’t spend as much time together; when they are together, they watch TV and don’t talk anymore…and cup-size Love Extinguishers are being poured on the fire. Then more Love Extinguishers–kids are born and there’s even LESS time together; the wife gains some weight and the husband wear sweats; he yell at her about bills and she disrespects his job; HE want sex and SHE doesn’t feel connected to you so she resents it…and the Love Extinguishers are getting to be less like little cups of water and more like a downpour.
Biblically, this is how sin takes over our lives. A bit at a time, we give in. A little sin here, a little sin there, building up our rebellion until we are enslaving ourselves to sin all over again. The marriage starts to suffer, as bits, and then portions, and then whole chunks of God’s explanations of how we are to treat one another are ignored. Eventually we are not involved in Biblical love at all. More and more we choose the opposite – the couple begins to concentrate on their spouse’s failing to serve them rather than how both spouses can grow to love and serve the other.
How Affairs Start
Enter the Other Person. Two places that are quite common for finding an Affair Partner are 1) discovering an old boyfriend or girlfriend on Facebook (link to “how emotional affair progresses), or 2) meeting someone at work. Similar to how our couple first ‘fell in love’, the Other Person offers almost no Love Extinguishers because they concentrate on all the things to kindle love, and they don’t have the disadvantage of having to pay bills or hang the TP the wrong way! The Affair Partner is happy to hear from the Disloyal Spouse. They act like she or he is interesting and perks up when the Disloyal Spouse says “Hi”. The Other Person tells him/her that they like being with them. They send a little note on Facebook, or a lovey ecard. They might send a poem and compliment the Disloyal Spouse on their looks. And part of the Disloyal Spouse is thrilled that someone else thinks they’re neat! They are happy…and according to some empirical research, the brain releases dopamine which is a natural amphetamine…so they get a little love-zing. Then the Disloyal Spouse flirts a little and the Affair Partner flirts back! There’s a connection and it really feels good.
Meanwhile, the Loyal Spouse, not knowing what’s happening, continues with Love Extinguishers, and the comparisons begin. The Loyal Spouse spends LESS time with the Disloyal Spouse and the Other Person can’t wait to be with them. They don’t dress up for him/her or say she/he looks good, while the Other Person tells them that they are beautiful (or handsome) without even being asked. The Loyal Spouse yells about a bill or gets in the ‘same old argument’ and the Other Person never even yells once. And in the Disloyal Spouse’s head…Disloyal Dizziness begins to roll in like a fog. (Disloyal Dizziness is that way of thinking that is so bizarre and so … well, just SILLY that it almost sounds like nonsense when it comes out of the Disloyal Spouse’s mouth.) The Disloyal Spouse knows they shouldn’t be doing this, but the thrill of the love-zing is so exciting. They feel loved and good looking. They make excuses. They start to be more and more and more secretive (because that forbidden rendezvous is so tempting)! They will do anything to get more and more and more of that zing. It’s like a drug.
As we mentioned above, as sin takes over bit by bit, the Disloyal Spouse will justify why it’s okay to go one small step further. As line after line is crossed, rather than engaging in biblical love, they engage in the opposite–they go from pleasing God to pleasing themselves. And as more and more sin creeps in and takes over, the Loyal Spouse hears more justifications for the affair : they were never happy–they never loved you—and finally they say out loud, “I love you but I’m not IN LOVE with you.”
It is the same thing whether it is a man or a woman. We all would like to be told we are handsome, or beautiful, smart, interesting, or fun to be with. We all want to think that the one who loves us gets a little thrill when we walk in the room. It is very rare for an affair to be about sex. What happens is that for both men and women, Love Kindlers are being provided, so they feel blazing hot feelings for the person that spill into wanting to do physical things to express that fire.
What happens if you get caught?
Usually the affair is like an addiction. Like any drug addict, if you threaten to take away the drug, they will do ANYTHING to keep the drug…ANY THING! Crying, swearing, promising, threatening, lying, hiding, stealing, blaming, deflecting…these are all really common tactics that a Disloyal Spouse will use to keep the affair-drug going.
What must be done to save the marriage
If the Disloyal Spouse wants to really fix this and make the marriage super strong and blazing hot, they need to do two things.
1. End the Affair. For infidelity to really stop, it is advisable that there be NO CONTACT WHATSOEVER, between the Disloyal Spouse and the Affair Partner!! The Disloyal Spouse has to go through a period of withdrawal. This is a time, like a drug addict, where they don’t get the supply of that love-zing, and they MISS it. They will want to contact the Other Person just to “see if they’re okay” or they might be mopey and cry and be pretty sullen. Further, they are rarely all that sorry and quite often a little mad and cranky at the Loyal Spouse (after all—the Loyal Spouse cut off the supply)! That’s because the Disloyal Dizziness has not cleared yet, and they haven’t gotten out of the sinful habit and established a new, godly habit of treating their spouse with biblical love. They made a habit out of the affair, and now the Holy Spirit needs to change them from self-centered to God-centered. The Holy Spirit does this through commitment to diligent bible study and prayer. Once the Disloyal Spouse is affair-free, they will gradually become more and more like themselves and like the man or woman they were before the affair. At that point there is about a 100% chance that they will be way more than a little embarrassed and want to act like nothing happened. They often feel a little depressed because it seems to them they are returning to a life of Love Extinguishers.
2. Truly Repent–before God and to your Loyal Spouse. True repentance always involves a confession of wrongdoing and a willingness to make things right. It involves TWO steps, not just one. You must change 180 degrees from what you’ve been doing, and you must replace the former habit with a godly habit. In the specific instance of adultery, repentance means replacing self-centered, worldly affection and desire with god-centered biblical love (acting toward your spouse in a loving way). Put simply, admit the affair was wrong before God and ask for His forgiveness, and then “go and sin no more”… and do the same with your spouse!
If the Loyal Spouse wants to really fix this and make the marriage super strong and blazing hot, they need to do two things.
1. Find out what Love Extinguishers they’ve been doing that hurt their Disloyal Spouse. Now it’s best to ask the Disloyal Spouse directly and let them tell you, but if the Disloyal Spouse is unwilling to tell you to your face, the Bible does tell us how to act in a loving way! Read I Corinthians 13 and ask yourself if you are acting that way. The Loyal Spouse can also ask if they would be willing to do a quiz. Love Extinguishers Questionnaire. Naturally it would be nice if the Disloyal Spouse asked what Love Extinguishers they have been doing too, but they might not at first, and honestly we wouldn’t push it just yet. For now, just concentrate on ending the Love Extinguishers that either you or your spouse identified, and let the Holy Spirit change you. In other words, pull the beam out of your own eye (Matt. 7:3).
2. Find out which Love Kindlers mean “I love you” to the Disloyal Spouse and commit to doing those for them. We have a great example: The HUSBAND ‘acts of service’ as a way to say “I love you” to him–and doing chores just does not mean love to the WIFE. So if the husband never asked his wife what her Love Kindlers were, he’d be cleaning away in the kitchen and changing her oil thinking “Wow look how much I’m showing her I love her” and she’d be thinking, “Why doesn’t he act like he loves me? All he does is spend time in the kitchen and garage!” Ask the Disloyal Spouse what their love language is, what their Love Kindlers are, or once again take a quiz. Love Kindlers Questionnaire. Just like before, it would be nice if they would ask the Loyal Spouse what their Love Kindlers are, but they might not at first, and honestly we wouldn’t push it just yet either.