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5 Ways Sexual Immorality Sneaks in to Harm Your Marriage

Whitney Hopler

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Updated Mar 13, 2024
5 Ways Sexual Immorality Sneaks in to Harm Your Marriage

Marriage is a tremendously valuable bond of love between you, your spouse, and God. During your wedding vows, you likely promised to cherish each other and your marriage. But since then, the stress of living in our fallen world – where sexual immorality is commonplace – may have challenged you to keep those promises. Temptations to sin sexually are everywhere. No matter how much you love God and your spouse, you’re not immune to sexual temptations. So, it’s important to be intentional about protecting your sacred relationship with your spouse from sexual sin. Sexual immorality can infiltrate your marriage if you don’t pay attention to it day by day. If you let that happen, you and your spouse can go through deep pain and conflict, and your marriage may not survive. Here are five ways sexual immorality sneaks in to harm your marriage and how to overcome those ways with God’s help.

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1. Neglecting emotional intimacy.

1. Neglecting emotional intimacy.

The emotional bond you share is the cornerstone of your marriage. If you neglect to nurture this bond, you inadvertently create an environment for sexual immorality to take root. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and neglect making time in your schedule to nurture emotional intimacy between you and your spouse. But remember, intimacy isn’t just about physical connection; it’s about feeling deeply connected to your partner on an emotional level. Ephesians 5:21-33 describes how God calls husbands and wives to build relationships of mutual trust and understanding. It begins with this exhortation in Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This mutual submission is a powerful love that mirrors the great sacrificial love Jesus has for the church. It requires respect and reverence, which is only possible through a regular emotional investment in your relationship and a deep understanding of your spouse’s needs and desires. So, take the time regularly to truly listen to each other’s thoughts and feelings. Share your joys, sorrows, fears, dreams, and more with each other. Make an effort to give each other empathy, encouragement, and support for your mutual well-being together. When you prioritize emotional intimacy, you strengthen the foundation of your marriage and build a fortress against outside temptations. Proverbs 4:23 urges: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Guarding your heart involves protecting your emotions and the emotional intimacy in your marriage. When you guard your heart, you are mindful of what influences you allow in your life so your decisions and actions reflect what’s healthy and holy. You don’t let yourself develop a romantic, emotional connection to someone who is not your spouse. You don’t emotionally neglect the person who is your spouse, leaving him or her feeling deprived and vulnerable to seeking intimacy outside your marriage. You don’t create an environment in your marriage where trust between you and your spouse breaks down. In any of those situations, sexual immorality can sneak in to harm your marriage. Instead, you choose to nurture the emotional bond between you regularly, making time regularly for deep conversations, praying together, going on adventures like dates and trips together, and having sex with each other in ways that fulfill you both.

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2. Prioritizing physical pleasure over spiritual connection.

2. Prioritizing physical pleasure over spiritual connection.

In a world that glorifies physical pleasure and instant gratification, it’s essential to prioritize spiritual connection within your marriage. If you don’t do so, your perspective on sex can become corrupted. While our society too often cheapens sex and emphasizes a hookup culture that is only focused on physical pleasure, God’s perspective on sex is much greater. You should trust God because he has given your body to you with sacred trust. God invented sex and designed it to involve your soul as well as your body. If you’re a Christian, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you’re called to honor God with your body. In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, the Bible says: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” Instead of just chasing after your physical desires, focus on cultivating a deep spiritual connection with your spouse. Pray together, study God’s Word together, and worship together. Allow God’s love to permeate every aspect of your marriage, guiding your thoughts, words, and actions. When you prioritize spiritual connection, you not only draw closer to God but also to each other. You both can then feel God’s love and experience true fulfillment rather than looking to anything or anyone lesser than God to fulfill you. Then, you both will be strong enough to resist temptations to sin sexually. You will also have a spiritual connection that can enrich the physical pleasure you experience together in your marriage.

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3. Allowing pornography to invade your marriage.

Pornography is a pervasive threat that can easily infiltrate your marriage. It’s not a harmless pastime. Far from it – pornography is both dangerous and addictive. If either you or your spouse choose to watch pornography – even to do so together – it will poison the well of intimacy you share and erode the trust between you. In our digital age, pornographic material is more accessible than ever, tempting many people to indulge in fantasies that can ultimately destroy relationships. No matter how much others may downplay the harm that pornography can cause, pornography has hurt many people and broken down many marriages. It’s essential for you and your spouse both to guard your hearts and minds against the allure of pornography. In Job 31:1-6, Job describes the importance of avoiding lust by choosing where we look wisely: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. For what is our lot from God above, our heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? Does he not see my ways and count my every step? If I have walked with falsehood or my foot has hurried after deceit – let God weigh me in honest scales, and he will know that I am blameless.” Pornography distorts God's design for sexuality, leading to dissatisfaction and disillusionment within marriage. In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus warns against the dangers of lust, emphasizing that even just looking at someone lustfully constitutes adultery: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” By rejecting pornography and embracing God’s plan for intimacy, you protect the sanctity of your marriage and honor each other as beloved children of God. Instead of turning to pornography for sexual satisfaction, turn to each other. Nurture intimacy through open communication, mutual respect, and genuine affection. Then, the intimacy between you will fuel genuine sexual desire and help you both experience authentically fulfilling sex in your marriage. Choose to make the commitment that Psalm 101:3 recommends: “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” 

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Woman sliding off her wedding ring

4. Succumbing to emotional affairs.

Emotional affairs can be just as damaging to your marriage as physical infidelity can be. When you confide in someone outside of your marriage, sharing intimate thoughts and feelings, you betray the trust of your spouse and jeopardize the sacred bond you share. Proverbs 4:23-27 cautions against such entanglements, urging you to guard your heart against the temptation to sin: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” It’s vital to prioritize transparency and emotional fidelity in your marriage. Keep the lines of communication open between you, and be completely honest with each other about your thoughts, feelings, and struggles. If you find yourself developing romantic feelings for someone outside of your marriage, seek accountability and support from trusted friends or a Christian counselor. Emotional affairs are a form of adultery, and Proverbs 6:32-33 warns about the consequences of adultery: “But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away.” Emotional affairs often start innocently but can quickly escalate, leading to devastating consequences for your marriage. So, stay vigilant, and keep checking in regularly with caring and trustworthy people who can hold you accountable to be faithful in your marriage and support you in that effort. Proverbs 27:17 points out: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Stay sharp so you won’t succumb to emotional affairs.

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5. Failing to seek healing for past pain and trauma.

Unresolved pain and trauma from the past can create vulnerabilities in you and your spouse, making you both susceptible to seeking comfort outside of your marriage. The Bible encourages you to pursue healing for past pain, so you can let go of bitterness and embrace forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31-32 urges: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” By addressing past wounds and extending forgiveness to one another, you can experience healing and restoration in your marriage – no matter how painful your past has been. Then, you won’t be as vulnerable to sexual immorality as you would be if you hadn’t pursued healing. So, acknowledge and address any unresolved traumatic issues from your past. Together with your spouse, seek counseling or join a support group if needed. Lean on each other for support and encouragement. By healing past wounds together, you can strengthen your bond and build a resilient foundation for your marriage. God is willing to help you both with whatever you all need during the healing process. He declares in Exodus 15:26: “…I am the LORD, who heals you.” Proverbs 147:2 says about God: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” 

In conclusion, safeguarding the sanctity of your marriage requires intentional vigilance and reliance on God’s help. Sexual sin is everywhere in our society. So, sexual immorality can easily sneak in to harm your marriage. But you can develop a strong marriage by building emotional intimacy and spiritual connection, staying away from pornography, preventing emotional affairs, and seeking healing for past pain and trauma. When you place God at the center of your marriage, you can build a loving and enduring relationship that will bless you both.

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headshot of author Whitney HoplerWhitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on X/Twitter and on Facebook

Originally published Tuesday, 12 March 2024.