You might not have committed adultery, but have you cheated on your spouse in a different way? In The Art of Falling in Love, author Joe Beam breaks down five unexpected types of affairs that can become a dividing point in a marriage.
There are less obvious ways for us to be unfaithful than by committing adultery. The principles are the same whether we are talking about a man or a woman who becomes the third party in a marriage or whether it is something else entirely. There are the same patterns of decreasing dependence in the marriage, emotional transfer to someone or something else, and the final crisis of making the decision either to rescue the marriage or to abandon it for the looming alternative.
Here are a few nonsexual affairs I have seen become the dividing point in a marriage:
• Alcohol, food, or drugs. One spouse becomes so addicted to a method of self-medication that he or she will not stop, even at the cost of the marriage.
• Work. Some sublimate the love and commitment they once had for a spouse into the pursuit of a career. Desires for money, power, and prestige feed into this temptation, and it becomes an ever-present refuge when we are frustrated with our personal relationships. Some men and women begin bringing attaché cases and laptop computers home not because they need to work, but because they either no longer remember how to interact with their family or simply no longer want to.
• Family of origin. Some people never allow themselves to reach the level of absolute attachment and commitment of true love because they do not allow their lover to become the most important person in their lives. Instead their attachment to their parents, brothers, or sisters makes them so controlled by their original family that their lovers never take their rightful places in their hearts.
• Hobbies. There are men who disappear into the woods to hunt and fish every weekend for long wild-game seasons, or perhaps they live on the golf course. There are women who are involved in clubs or church events to such an excessive extent that they are never at home. Some people become so emotionally attached to computers, e‑mail, online chat rooms, and Internet surfing that they all but disappear into the circuitry. Whatever it is, anything that keeps a man and woman from growing in love for each other is an unwanted “lover” taking away the time, focus, and attention a spouse deserves.
• Friendship. Could a thing as good as a friendship break up a marriage? I have seen it happen. I know a woman who became so thoroughly involved—nonsexually—with a female friend that she finally left her husband. She believed that her friendship was more fulfilling and emotionally valuable than her marriage.
I could make a list so long that it would take another book or two to complete it, but you get the idea. Think of it this way: adultery is the violation of the marriage contract that occurs when the spouse is supplanted by someone or something else. Theologians might not define it that way, but those of us who work with thousands of couples each year know that it is true.
Get relationship tips. Find help with your love life. Have a happy marriage. Sign up for our newsletter!