As a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in infidelity, I see the devastating results of affairs every day. I see men and women who step out of their marriage sexually, emotionally, and sometimes both.
One thing I love about what I do, if given the chance, is helping the couple discover where the marriage went off the track.
Usually, if they are willing, the affair can be a turning point in their relationship as they move beyond the pain (with time) and dive into deeper issues underneath.
But most people that haven’t been down the infidelity road want to know how to avoid it all together. That is a great question to ask.
Here are some tips to help “Affair-Proof” your marriage.
1. Be aware of the NEEDS and LOVE LANGUAGES of your partner.
Gary Chapman writes in his wonderful book on “The Five Love Languages” to learn how your partner recieves love and how you receive love. It’s difficult to meet their needs if you don’t know what they are.
Most of us give love the way we want to receive love. This books helps you do the opposite- give love the way your partner feels it.
2. Nurture the relationship.
If you have a plant, you know you need to water it and make sure it gets the light it needs. Once we are married, we kind of expect our relationship to take care of itself. This is not going to happen.
We actually need to do MORE work on our relationship after we are married than we did when we were dating. You might ask, “How do you nurture a relationship?”
By going out on dates, spending quality time together, encouraging each other, and investing in each other. Just like you do when you are dating.
You may have to get creative with this one. It’s more difficult to do when you are raising a family, paying a mortgage, having a career, and trying to get some sleep.
But if you make it a priority, like you did when you were dating, you can make it happen.
3. Have fun together!
Most people that have an affair say their lives had become boring and their relationship just wasn’t fun anymore. It’s important to remember not to be so serious all the time.
Learn a hobby together so you can laugh at each other (and yourself). Watch funny movies, laugh at old times, and remind each other of the humor in everyday life.
4. Flirt with and pursue your spouse
When was the last time you flirted with your spouse? Do you ever send a text message saying you are thinking about your spouse?
Or what about sending them a message inviting them out on a date. Or how about kissing the mirror with lipstick and saying “I love you”.
Send an email saying you are excited about “this evening after the kids go to bed ”. These things might seem silly but we all want to be pursued.
That’s part of the reason why dating was so fun- someone was pursuing us. So pursue your spouse!
5. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally
It may seem vain to be concerned with what your spouse looks like. But let’s be honest, most of us were first physically attracted to our spouse.
Their attractiveness is what caught our eye in one way or another. It’s important for us to take care of our bodies and our minds, so we remain attractive to our spouse.
Now, I can hear the rumbles and I will refute them- I am not saying you have to be a size 0, have no cellulite, and wear heels to the grocery store on your day off.
But maybe you could change out of those favorite pair of sweats. Maybe you could get dressed up for your nights out and wear those favorite pair of jeans he loves.
Guys, you know we are olfactory sensitive. Maybe before you jump in the sack you could throw on some cologne after a quick shower.
Or when you go out on a date, change out of those tired sneakers! Take pride in how you look to your spouse. You would if you were dating.
Part of taking care of ourselves is to care for our mental health as well. No one wants to be around a grumpy, angry, nagging, pessimist.
So take care of yourself by getting a tune up now and then with a therapist. Or read a book to inspire and motivate you. Go on a retreat to get away and regroup. Take care of yourself emotionally.
6. Make sure your sex life has a pulse.
Ladies- this one is mostly for you. It’s really easy to let the sex life die when you are tired, kids have been hanging on you all day, and the laundry is piled up around your Love Shack (your bedroom).
But it’s so important to keep it alive and ticking. In many ways this is how men feel secure in the relationship. When sex goes down to once a month and he has to initiate it, it’s really difficult for him to have the self esteem to pursue you.
Many of them give up due to the fear of rejection, anger, and the resentment they feel from a stale sex life. Try to keep it frequent, engaged, and yeah- sometimes a little spicy!
7. Be careful having opposite sex relationships.
What I mean by this is to be careful what you are sharing with your opposite sex friends/ co-workers. Don’t say anything to them that you wouldn’t say if your spouse was listening to the conversation.
Be careful not to share intimate information with them, particularly about your relationship. Many times this is how emotional affairs start.
Be sure your spouse knows your friends, could have a comfortable conversation with them, and that you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable with them talking.
If you would, you may be sharing information that you shouldn’t. I could go on and on about this based on what I see everyday. Be on guard. This is a slippery slope.
8. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
What good is any of this if you can’t communicate with your spouse? There are going to be times when your spouse hurts you, lets you down, or down right enrages you.
If you can’t talk to them about it, resentment and negativity will build. What once were tiny little things will pile into a mountain that feels impossible to climb.
You would be amazed at how many times we hear, “I never knew that bothered you!” or “I had no idea you wanted me to do that for you.”
So many times we hear the conversations in our heads, but struggle to verbalize them to our partners. This could be that we think they should already know it about us (a myth) or that we want to avoid conflict (not healthy).
It’s so important to talk about things, even if it’s a difficult topic. I’ll say it again: COMMUNICATE!
I know it can be nearly impossible to start doing all of these at once. I encourage you to pick one or two and start focusing on a plan to make it a part of your lives together.
Show your spouse this article and tell him or her what you plan to do. This will help you stay more accountable and put it into action.
Good luck and have fun affair-proofing your marriage!
About the author
Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC is a therapist, writer, and speaker with Imagine Hope Counseling Group in Indianapolis, Indiana.
They provide marriage, couples, individual, and family counseling for adults, children, and adolescents. Imagine Hope was started by Joleen Watson, Natalie Chandler, and Tamara Wilhelm in 2005. Teri Claassen, Alexa Griffith, and Christy Fogg have been great additions to the practice.
They share specialized experience in helping others in the areas of depression, anxiety, infidelity, communication, addictions, and self-esteem.
Being wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends themselves, each of the therapists understands the struggle to find the balance that each of these roles carry.
Additionally, the women understand Hope is one of the most important things a person needs in order to keep pressing on when life gets tough.
For great resources http://www.imaginehopecounseling.com
Imagine Hope Blog http://inspire.imaginehopecounseling.com
Natalie’s Blog http://www.imaginehopecounseling.com/nkcblog
Follow me on Twitter @nkchandler
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