Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT has been a therapist for over 30 years, specializing in work with couples, families and relationships. She has expertise with clients
Couples who experience an affair in their marriage often feel as if their very foundation was destroyed. The revelation of an affair is a traumatic event and healing takes a long time.
Can you really “affair-proof” your marriage? Yes, and I want to share some tips for how you and your partner can do that together.
I have seen many couples in my practice and, while most of these couples do have difficulties, many find ways to work through their problems while also remaining faithful. Here are some of the ways that they make it happen.
1. Start with the attitude of being certain that you will not stray.
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Begin with the belief that you will guard against any relationship with another person that could lead to an affair, either an emotional one or a sexual affair.
Recognize that there are many people who are attractive and might be quite attractive to or attracted by you. That’s human nature.
In order to affair-proof your marriage, shake hands with this idea but also make sure that the door is not open to exploring or taking it any further than noticing it … because you KNOW that you will not follow up on any inappropriate relationship outside of your marriage.
2. Establish clear boundaries with your partner. Avoid Temptation.
Limit your contact with people of the opposite sex or, if you are attracted to those of the same sex, be careful.
We are all capable of becoming attracted to many different people. There are a lot of nice, interesting and attractive people in this world!
If you find someone that might fit that description, steer clear unless your spouse is around. If this person might be a co-worker or someone that you might see on your own, limit your contact to work or professional conversations. Be very careful about sharing personal stories or information.
It is amazingly easy for a simple friendship to develop into something much more important.
3. Talk openly about what you need from your partner.
Holding on to things that bother you can only build up and cause unhappiness in your marriage which provides fertile ground for noticing others, especially those who might be available or interested in listening to your complaints.
Be open with your partner in calm, direct and loving ways. Present your concerns in ways that allow for discussion and problem-solving.
4. Talk openly about attractions to and from others.
There are a lot of interesting and attractive people in this world. Some of those people might be ones that you see on a regular basis at work, in groups or in the neighborhood. Share your notice of these others with your spouse. Don’t keep it a secret. Talk together about how you might deal with that interest effectively.
5. Talk openly about sex.
While affairs are rarely just about sex, often, they may be about a need or a desire to have an active sex life…or sometimes just to be touched and held. If you are unhappy with your intimate life, talk with your partner (and not with someone else) about it.
6. Be positive and focus on the good.
We can all find something to be disappointed about with our partner and our relationship. Staying focused on the negative; however, only erodes feelings of good will. It is much easier to cheat on someone you are upset with than it is someone that you really like and respect.
If you find yourself thinking about the negative, stop that thought. Do you need to have a conversation with your partner about the issue or do you need to let it go? Think about good things about him or her and find ways to appreciate the good in your relationship.
7. Try new and different things.
One way to keep a relationship interesting is to experience new things together. One research study noted that new experiences raises the level of serotonin in the brain in the same way that an affair does (although not necessarily to the same level).
Keep your relationship diverse and interesting. Look for new restaurants, movies and activities that are different and even a stretch for you and your partner.
8. Don’t give up. Recognize that marriage takes work.
Changes take time. Changing feelings usually takes longer than changing actions and thoughts.
Hang in there and look for ways be patient, positive and calm. Do not expect perfection. Accept the imperfection and focus on the good in the relationship.
Making your marriage affair-proof is well worth the time and effort. It does require time and attention to your relationship but the efforts are well worth it with the security that comes from knowing you are in a committed relationship.
What have you learned about making marriages work? What do you know that you want to do even more to make sure that an affair never happens in your marriage … or never happens again.
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