How to affair-proof your marriage

To love and to cherish till “death do us part” is a central part of most marriage vows and a commitment most common-law couples expect. But do we actually make this a daily life experience?

Do you take your spouse for granted? Do you expect him/her to be there for you no matter what? Do you put their needs last after work, family, friends and children? Do you make each other feel special? If you answered “no” to these questions, your relationship may be at risk of an affair.

It is curious how in the early stages of relationships every moment together is cherished and meeting the other’s needs seems vital. Later on in relationships the focus becomes not about giving, but about what are they doing for “me?”

Somehow we end up focusing on what the other is doing wrong rather than taking personal responsibility for the relationship. Having been married for for over 30 years I certainly have some sense of the ups and downs of navigating a successful relationship.

Here are some smart ways couples affair-proof their marriage every single day:

  1.  Make sure you are meeting your own needs. You are ultimately responsible for being clear about what makes you happy and ensuring those needs are met. If you are a social person you need to make sure that you have time with friends. If you like to exercise you need to take time for this. What you need is important!
  2. Kindly let your spouse know what you like and need. So often people fail to express to their spouse what they need. They expect them to “just know” what they need, and when their spouse doesn’t recognize the need they build up resentment. Resentment leads to attack rather than gently expressing a desire. Resentments can build a wall that can push you or your partner towards another person.
  3. Find out what your spouse wants and needs. Often people assume their spouse has the same needs as themselves. They give them what they want, not realizing that is not a particular need of their spouse. They are often baffled when their spouse is unhappy because “I have done all of this for you.”
  4. Do you have non-sexual touch? Hugging, holding hands, verbal positive expressions? Do you know if you are meeting your spouse’s needs in this area? If touch always leads to sex, affection may be avoided when people have different sexual needs.
  5. A regular healthy sexual relationship is important. Assuming your spouse is content because they are not complaining may be a mistake. Few are happy with a sexless or almost sexless relationship. It can be very tough to negotiate frequency because couples so often have different sexual needs, but keep talking and meet in the middle.
  6. Your emotional connection is key. If you feel close, cared for, challenged and understood most of your relationship problems can be overcome. If you find you are not getting heard or understood there is a good chance you will start talking intimately with someone else. If you are confiding in a member of the opposite sex on a regular basis rather than your spouse you are in dangerous territory. This can quickly and expectantly turn into a sexual relationship. Smart couples keep opposite sex friends at an appropriate distance. They don’t allow themselves to stray. They talk to their spouse about the needs of each other.
  7. Happy couples have fun together. The way they do this is as varied as there are people. Often activities that brought people together change over time. So the question is, what do you have in common now and what can you do together that you both enjoy? This may require some compromise and meeting the other person’s need because you value them and cherish them.
  8. Honesty and integrity are important. It means doing what you say you will do and abiding by your own values. Sometimes people end up justifying an affair. They might feel “I deserve this” and my spouse is not meeting my needs. Cheating can be disguised as “taking care of yourself.” But if there is lying involved it is deception. Expressing your needs is taking care of yourself. It is easy to blame the other person for your unhappiness, rather than take responsibility for yourself.
  9. Respect boundaries. Sexual comments and hiding are never okay. Decide together what the boundaries are for your relationship. Are you okay with opposite sex friendships? Respect the boundaries of healthy arguments – happy couples do not get into name calling or threatening. Mean words can be as damaging to a relationship as an affair.
  10. When conflicts arise, approach your spouse with a desire to understand them rather than to attack and criticize. This is how fights are minimized. Couples get into destructive fights when they get stuck in trying to protect themselves by defending and attacking the other person. I know this is hard to do! When emotions are hot and the anger arises it is hard to stay calm. I suggest couples take a time out to calm down, try to write out their anger and challenge their negative assumptions so they can approach their spouse in a different way.
  11. Trust yourself and your partner. You cannot control someone into being committed to you. Demanding, yelling, guilting do not work; they may create compliance, but will likely lead to resentment.
  12. Create a heart connection with openness, warmth, caring, love, compassion, joy and forgiveness. Approaching each other with love opens hearts, while approaching with anger closes them.

When hearts are open, needs are met, upsets are resolved, and intimate connections are created, affairs are unlikely to happen.

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