Eight Ways Pastors Can Affair-Proof Their Marriage

The other day I wrote about eight warnings signs that you might be headed for an affair, gathered from the General Petraeus affair with Paul Broadwell. I talked about the problem. Now I’d like to offer a solution.affair proof

I’m directing this post to my fellow pastors because too many pastors fall morally unaware of how vulnerable they are. If you aren’t a pastor, don’t worry: the advice still holds true.

Affair Proof Your Marriage

I’ve restated the warning signs that you are headed for an affair followed by my advice:

Warning sign #1: You live a high pressure, high responsibility life.

Rx: Being a pastor is stressful. Even in the smallest church you can feel ultra responsible to offer spiritual, emotional, and physical comfort to everyone.  It’s important to have strong boundaries in place to make sure you are cared for as well.  Build rest into your week and each day.  Get eight hours of sleep and exercise three times a week. Give yourself permission to not be everyone’s savior.

Warning sign #2: Your position and speed of life keep you isolated and lonely.

Rx: You need personal time. You need friends you can kick back and laugh with. Don’t allow yourself to always be the Good Shepherd.  Get a life outside of the church. Lonely people do desperate things.

Warning sign #3: You are physically separate from your family and friends.  

Rx: Your first obligation is to your family.  Make time for them.   Have family time every day and a family day every week.  And don’t lose track of your friends. Keeping contact with friends and family  creates accountability and prevents you from creating an alternate world with another person.

Warning sign #4: You spend long periods of time with someone alone.

Rx: Don’t let this happen with someone who you find attractive or could find attractive over time. Don’t kid yourself. Assume an attraction will happen and take preventive measures to make sure it doesn’t happen.  Some people will naturally be drawn to you because they perceive you as someone in authority and someone who is spiritual.  Don’t allow their misplaced adulation to cause you to be drawn to them. You are the leader. You need to anticipate this and have a plan of action to prevent anything from developing.

Warning sign #5: You are stimulated by the intellectual camaraderie.

Rx: Don’t think that talking about “spiritual things” is innocent discussion.   You bond with someone when you share things in common: even spiritual things.  If you find yourself enjoying discussions with another person more than your spouse, you are in a danger zone.  Limit your discussions to one or two counseling sessions and refer out after that.

Warning sign #6: You share personal intimacies with them.

Rx: You can’t do this. If you do, one of two things will happen: either it will be a very awkward moment that causes the person to feel uncomfortable and tell others, or they will feel privileged to have you be so vulnerable with them and be drawn to you.  Neither result is something you can live with.  Even imagining that you might share intimate information is a warning sign.  A warning needs to sound: Abort! Abort!

Warning #7: You arrange your schedule to “bump into” this person.  

Rx: If there is someone who you are naturally attracted to you should do just the opposite. Purposefully avoid interacting with them unless it’s necessary to speak with them professionally.

Warning #8: You lie about your meeting with this person.

Rx: If you don’t have a solid professional reason for meeting with someone then don’t do it.  If you find yourself having to justify your meeting then you are in a bad place.

Affairs are preventable. There are warning signs to watch for and preventative steps you can take that will make them almost impossible to develop. So why not do all you can to save yourself, your family, and your congregation a lot of pain?

Question: What else can you do to help affair-proof a marriage? Leave your comment below.

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