The Allure of the Illegitimate in Marriage

Playing with Fire

Today I’m continuing to unpack another way we can let our spouses control us with – “Choosing to have an affair or to look at pornography because you believe you’ve been deprived of ‘whatever’ in your marriage.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that the spouses who need this message the most are not going to be the ones reading it.

In fact, if you’re the spouse who has been impacted by this type of offense, you’re probably going to be tempted to either get your spouse to read this or use some of what I’m going to say here to bolster your own point of view.

Then let me caution you with one word … DON’T!

Otherwise, you’ll be trying to control your spouse, just like your spouse has been trying to take control of his/her feelings of “dissatisfaction in marriage” by seeking out some intruder to meet that need. #willnotwork

Thankfully, this has never been a problem for my husband. In fact, he has even gone to the extreme of making himself accountable in this area with a coworker and me through the Covenant Eyes’ accountability system.

His coworker and I get a weekly report about where his online presence has gone that will give him a passing grade if his searches are all above board. And it will warn me if he should go to sites that might have a “mature” rating.*

Even though I’ve not experienced my husband pursuing an affair or pornography, I can speak to the temptations that I have had.

Although I’ve not had an affair or sought out pornography, I have been tempted with attractions to those of the opposite sex during my marriage. And I’d venture to say that you probably have too at one time or another. But even if you haven’t been tempted, don’t ever feel that you are immune to that occurring at some point in your marriage.

That’s especially true if your marriage is messy, weak, dysfunctional or going through a trial of some kind. And who hasn’t experienced some of that in this fallen world?

Here’s what I would say to those who have allowed themselves to be tempted, giving into these …

2 Problematic Choices

1. Fantasy-based Outlets

Certainly pornography is based in fantasy, where the voyeur gets to control what he/she sees, does and feels. That’s often the main motivation behind pornography.

It gives the user a sense of control, especially for those who’ve been sexually-victimized in the past or feel sexually inadequate now.

But the same goes for adultery. You’re only encountering your paramour in the context of secrecy and excitement. The day-to-day stresses of life often do not invade a relationship like that. Real-life struggles are almost always based in the context of marriage. And your mate will be unfairly compared (in your head) to the blissful and stress-free union you have with your lover.

2. Meeting a Legitimate  Need in Illegitimate Way

In other words, it won’t work!

[bctt tweet=”You can never expect to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. #marriage #affair #fantasy” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

You will always suffer major losses by trying to do life/relationships in this way. God wired us to live our lives according to His law and Word, and when we go against that, we experience nothing short of disaster.

This is a red flag and warning bell that should be dealt with legitimately and immediately!

Be sure to come clean with yourself, God and your spouse before irreparable damage is done.

If you wait until your spouse finds out, you will suffer even greater fall-out. However, if you are willing to confess and ask your spouse to work with you towards healing in your marriage with the help of God and a good counselor, then you can experience a satisfaction that is deeper and more lasting than any momentary affair or illegitimate orgasm.


What other “realities” would you say are true and often missed when affairs or pornography are pursued?


How have you proactively dealt with the temptation to give in to opposite sex attractions while in marriage?


*Be aware that if you use the Covenant Eyes system, sometimes your spouse may visit a site that is rated as “Mature” but that does not mean it has inappropriate sexual content. It may simply be a site that talks about how to overcome sexual addiction or how to have satisfying sex in marriage, etc. Those types of sites are grouped in and flagged by Covenant Eyes because it cannot possibly discriminate on every website containing sexual or mature content.

My husband is the Pastor of Care and Recovery at our church, so there are occasions when he seeks to read articles on sexual matters for ministry purposes that come under this category, but each time I am made aware of which sites and articles he has read—keeping everything above board.

If you or your spouse are struggling with these addictions, I would encourage you to utilize the accountability and resources offered through Covenant Eyes.

Linking up with – Mommy Moments, Weekend Whispers, Making Your Home SingMondays @ Soul Survival, Faith ‘n Friends, Word of God Speak,  Sharing His Beauty, Spiritual Sundays, Words with Winter, Sitting Among Friends, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Playdates with God

11 responses to “The Allure of the Illegitimate in Marriage”

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth. A LOT of people need to read this.

    I never had a problem with either pornography or an affair. Pornography’s demeaning to the user, and I have WAY too much pride for that.

    Speaking to the possibility of an opposite-sex temptation, the truth is that the possibility was never remotely there; I present a persona that is not, to put it mildly, inviting (except to lost dogs, wild rabbits, kids, horses, and bikers). But I don’t think I would have been tempted; I wore my shield of arrogance pretty well, and it was based pretty deep. Letting anyone get close was rare (and getting married, a bit on the miraculous side). And yes, I was badly abused as a child.

    I’d add three more illegitimacies to the list – and they can have the same roots as you’ve mentioned above –

    1) Emotional affairs

    2) Over-involvement with a hobby and/or friends

    3) Over-involvement with a cause, even a good one

    More later, perhaps, but I am too ill to develop these now.


    1. I’m so glad you have that view about pornography, Andrew. I think that our culture is so inundated porn and it’s so easily accessible that many find themselves caught in its web when they are much too young to have any resolute convictions like you’ve developed to combat it or turn it away. It’s the modern-day plague–infecting those who are young and naive about its’ dangers.

      I can understand how your circumstances have helped to guard your heart against an affair or emotional entanglement. But even if there isn’t someone drawn to you, the fact remains that we are all vulnerable to being drawn to someone else–especially when we have troubles in our own marriage. At least, that’s what I experienced. I don’t talk about it much here but will at some point–the many times I let the hostility in my marriage emotionally draw me toward other men. I did not have an affair with them, but if I were to view things from Jesus’ perspective and know that an affair begins in the heart, then I’m just as guilty as if I had slept with someone. It’s something I feel great regret over, though I know God and my husband forgive me for focusing on those desires in the past. Yes, I confessed them to Gary when this was occurring in my heart.

      I agree about your additional points. In my view, as mentioned above, that emotional affairs with anyone and any thing–even if they are one-sided–are “affairs.” I suppose I did not clarify that, so thanks for highlighting that important fact. We definitely must guard our hearts vigilantly!

      Thanks so much for commenting and encouraging me, my friend! I do hope you are doing better than you’ve been doing lately. Prayers are daily being lifted up for you!


  2. GREAT post, Beth! Many will be blessed by your words, Love! Thank you for sharing! GOD bless you, beautiful friend! 🙂


    1. Thank you, Tai! I appreciate your kind words and coming by and encouraging me here, my friend.


      1. You are more than welcome, Love! 🙂


  3. I read your words yesterday and knew I needed to come back after having a time of reflection. I love that you are writing about some difficult issues but sharing them in such a graceful way. Affairs and pornography are subjects that are easily brushed under the rug yet so many face these hidden intruders in their own lives and/or marriages. Thank you for your bravery in going there and speaking out with the love of God.


    1. Thank you, dear Mary! I appreciate your thoughtfulness about this post and your support of what I’m stepping toward. I don’t know when I’ll write more about my own issues with letting my attractions to other men infect my marriage/thinking, but I will at some point. All I know is that this truly is like playing with fire and I hope that others wake up to the danger as well. Hugs to you!


  4. You are vulnerable and yet very wise in sharing, Beth. What a great mentor and role model you are for many of us.

    I’ve found Covenant Eyes to be a great resource for women, too, whose inappropriate online viewing might be different than men’s, but still dangerous to their spiritual authenticity and emotional health. A great resource, yes!


    1. Thank you, Linda! Your encouragement always means so much to me, my friend. I do feel as if it is something that God wants me to unpack more here in this space, but I am not ready to go further than I have in this post. You can pray for me in that! At this point, I want to put that chapter in my life far behind me. It hurts to remember the choices I made at that time. I’m so grateful that I never took it beyond what was in my mind–God protected me in that for sure! But I also know that there are many who can relate to this, the attraction part and getting caught up in it even when it doesn’t lead to an affair. As Jesus said, it is still an affair of the heart!

      Thanks also for adding that Covenant Eyes is a great resource for women who struggle with pornography or illicit sites as well. I’ve counseled some women with those issues in the past and it is a very real and agonizing struggle for them as well. I don’t think there’s enough recognition of this problem for women. Thank you for your wise words!


  5. None of us are immune from temptations so I appreciate your encouragement here to run from it *when* it comes (not *if* it comes). It might look different for each of us, so we need to be aware of our personal temptations. I appreciate you sharing this, Beth, because sometimes we can begin believing that we’re too strong to fall, but without the Lord’s help, none of us are strong enough. Blessings to you, friend.


  6. […] The Allure of the Illegitimate in Marriage<<Beth has excellent advice for the spouse who suspects their spouse is being unfaithful as well as advice for the spouse caught up in this death-trap. “God wired us to live our lives according to His law and Word, and when we go against that, we experience nothing short of disaster.” – Beth […]


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