Maybe some folks get married with the thought that it’s o.k. to have an affair or two along the way. After all, marriage lasts a long time, right? But surely this is not true for most people. Almost everyone assumes that if their spouse cheated on them it would be a deal breaker. And almost no one thinks, “Well, it’ll probably be me who cheats in this relationship.” But affairs do happen, don’t they? (Please see my previous posts linked below to learn more about the cause of affairs.)
What can you do, or not do, to affair-proof your relationship?
Spy, snoop, question, and otherwise invade your partner’s boundaries to reassure yourself they’re not cheating.
Focus on yourself and your behavior in your relationship. Understand that every relationship is co-created by two people. You are never responsible for the actions of another, but you are participating in a dynamic system of which you are an equal member. If you want your relationship to thrive, make sure that you are thriving.
Flirt or play other mind games to try to keep your partner’s attention.
Pay attention to the closeness-distance cyclesbetween you and your partner. Every relationship is characterized by periods of increased closeness and togetherness alternating with times of more distance and separation. This is normal and not indicative of a problem. With time and avoidance, however, the distance cycles can become so great that it’s easier for someone to triangle another person, in the form of an affair, into the marriage.
Blame, threaten, ignore, criticize, or otherwise try to turn your mate into the person you think he/she should be, or the person you think you really need.
Learn about your own reactivity, or stress response. (Fight or flight response and anxiety are other ways of describing the same thing. People also often relate to the concept of having their “buttons pushed”.) How do you behave when you are under stress? Do you withdraw, become argumentative, critical, or depressed? Do you worry, drink, shop, gamble, gossip? The list is endless but it’s worth knowing both what triggers your reactivity, and what you do when you’re feeling anxious. If you are not sure what you do when you’re anxious, ask your spouse what he/she thinks are the most difficult aspects of being married to you. The answers should give you some good clues.
Complain about your relationship to multiple friends or family members while telling yourself that it’s helpful to “vent” because it makes you feel better.
Work on changing your automatic reactions. This can be the point at which therapy is particularly useful. It’s hard to change behaviors that likely originated in your family growing up and got cemented in your current long-term relationship. Strategizing with an objective professional can help you to find more mature and creative ways of handling yourself and relating to others.
No one can guarantee that your marriage will be affair-proof forever. Even you might one day be tempted. But the best preventative is to pay attention-to yourself, your mate, and what’s happening between the two of you. Remember, if someone is or has been unfaithful, while terrible, it’s not the end of the world. You can heal.
Read the entire 4 part series:
Part 1: 4 Common Myths about Infidelity
Part 2: Universal Truths about Affairs
Part 3: Affair-Proof your marriage, 4 Do’s and 4 Don’ts
Part 4: Understanding Marital Infidelity: The Key to Healing From an Affair