How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage
How can I make sure my spouse doesn't cheat? How can I keep my marriage safe from infidelity? These are common questions I get from couples who both have and haven't already been affected by an affair. Every wants to know how to protect their marriage -- and what they're really asking is how to protect themselves. It's terrifying to think that you let your spouse out into the wild and anything could happen, especially something that irrevocably changes the very fabric of your life as you know it. Believe me, I get it.
It's a worthy quest to want to affair-proof your marriage or relationship. The bad news is that nobody can prevent infidelity from happening. Ugh. I hate that so much. But the truth is we can't control our partner and we can't monitor them 24/7. And unfortunately there are forces that are sometimes simply out of our control. I wish it wasn't true with every fiber of my being. I wish there was a way to protect and ensure against it.
What I do know is that we can only control ourselves AND we can do our part to nurture a relationship that practices honesty, safety, and trust. Okay, so how do we do that, you ask? If your marriage was to have a mission statement that protects against infidelity, it should be this:
Don't talk negatively about your spouse or your marriage to others: This is my first and biggest rule. Protect your marriage above all things! If you're in a work or social setting, absolutely do not throw your partner under the bus. Do not open up about your issues or gripes. Do not criticize your spouse. Do not confide about your marriage problems to anyone but a trusted friend or family member, and especially do not complain about your marriage in any way to your co-worker, exercise buddy, or acquaintance you see regularly. The minute you start expressing discontent outside your marriage you're advertising your vulnerability and you're taking the first step out of your marriage.
Be wise about your interactions with and time spent around others: Finding yourself looking forward to your morning running group because of that cutie who shows up on Thursdays? Excitedly grabbing your phone the minute it pings in case its your colleague? Catch yourself at it and be honest with yourself about what's happening and why. Attention is alluring! It's only natural. But have the wherewithal to pull back and regroup before you go down a road that's hard to backtrack on. "But its innocent!" you might argue. And I agree -- you're not dead yet! As long as you're alive its both normal and healthy to find yourself attracted to people other than your partner. HOWEVER, there's a boundary line and its your job to keep it. It is not the other person's job to keep it, and its not your spouse's job to keep it for you. It is YOUR job to be mindful. Here's the best gauge of this (and for #1): ask yourself If my spouse was watching or listening to me right now, would they feel badly or get upset? If the answer is yes, you're on the other side of a line. It's your job to monitor and maintain appropriate behaviors and choices.
Put your marriage first: Kids are a marriage killer. Sorry, I said it. Statistics show that with the birth of every child marital satisfaction decreases exponentially. Even without kids in the mix, a marriage is a living, breathing thing that needs to be nurtured, fed, and tended to actively. Don't put your marriage on auto-pilot. And if you do, catch that fact and go to your spouse to regroup. And if there are significant issues, commit to addressing them actively together.
Practice intimacy, even when it's scary: The catalyst to infidelity is that intimacy is created OUTSIDE of the marriage with another person. So practice keeping that intimacy inside your marriage and between you, and you'll be less vulnerable to finding it elsewhere. Intimacy is not sex, though that is important, too. Intimacy is openness, safety, and honesty in a marriage. Intimacy is being able to be yourself with your spouse and have that be known, appreciated, understood, and honored. Intimacy is the ability to be honest about difficult or scary things, even if it's hard. Intimacy is being able to give and receive feedback without being defensive or shutting down. Intimacy is sharing your wants, needs, desires, and fears and having those be held and cared for with your partner. No, its not always going to be perfect or go well. But if you can create an environment of safe interpersonal intimacy in your relationship everything will benefit. You'll have better conversations, better sex, and you'll love each other from a place that's got the foundation of a strong and real bond.
Even though there's no fail-proof way to protect your relationship from infidelity, if you keep these tips at the forefront you'll be actively doing your part to co-create a marriage that feels strong and is fortified to withstands the test of time. If you need more help and guidance, please reach out to me to talk about working together.