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Affair proofing your marriage: Reinforcing the marital fortress


It sounds like “too little, too late” to say how to affair proof your marriage. After all, if you are reading this blog, and are interested in infidelity issues, chances are that it is because you have already suffered it. No one reads about, learns about, or cares much about the issues of infidelity until it smacks them in the face. Then, you start reading about all the things you COULD have, and SHOULD have done to affair proof your marriage. Annoying isn’t it? Why don’t marriages come with a manual? Is this what those “marriage preparation” courses teach young couples before marriage? Somehow, I don’t think so, but it would be nice.

OK, so many of us can’t affair proof our marriage in retrospect and alter time to put us back where we were, so that we could use those lessons to prevent our spouse’s affair, but we can put those lessons into place as we go forward. There will ALWAYS be vulnerabilities that make us more prone to an affair in our marriage, and there will always be opportunities that present themselves to us.  As I have mentioned before, an affair happens when the two collide – when vulnerability meets opportunity.  So how does one affair proof a marriage?

Step 1: Identify and be aware of your personal vulnerabilities and those of your spouse.  Know the things that make you vulnerable.  If you aren’t sure what makes you vulnerable to an affair, check out some of the items I’d posted in an earlier post that I linked to in the hyperlink in the paragraph above this one.  New job? Death of a parent? Recent move? Body image?  Raised in a family/culture where infidelity happened?, Work closely with members of opposite sex?, Travel for work?, etc.  These are just a small sampling of the things to consider.  Talk with your spouse about how many vulnerabilities you have, and be open about them.  Keep a tally on how many you have from a list you compile together, and check them over monthly to keep tabs on how you are doing.  Try to reduce the vulnerabilities where you can.

Step 2:  Work to reduce the vulnerabilities in your life that make you prone.

You might be asking, “OK so how do I reduce my vulnerabilities if they are out of my control, or past issues I can no longer correct for?”.  Good point.  You can’t change the fact that you were raised by a parent who was a serial adulterer.  My husband was too.  You can’t change the fact that you are changing jobs and experiencing stress.  You can, however, be AWARE that this change in your life presents a vulnerability that you need to be mindful of.  If you travel for work, perhaps try and cut down on the amount you travel, or arrange to bring your family/spouse when you can.  If you can’t do that, arrange date-calls while you are away to check in with one another.  If you work closely with members of the opposite sex, and frequently need to have lunch meetings with members of the opposite sex, arrange to someone of your gender also present, when possible.  If you can’t, perhaps arrange to lunch somewhere very public, not conducive to chit-chat, once the work has been completed.  The more you can reduce the vulnerablities and be AWARE that they are there, the better you will fare.

The biggest vulnerability of all?

THE BELIEF THAT YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO FALL INTO AN AFFAIR AND THAT YOUR MARRIAGE IS IMMUNE/SAFE FROM INFIDELITY

If you believe the above statement to be true, then you will not have your guard up appropriately, and be constantly patrolling for holes in your marital defence wall.  Now, you might say, “I don’t want to live my days worrying about safeguarding something that I know is strong.  It’s too much work, and focuses my thoughts on something negative that hasn’t even happened.  I’d rather use my energies for things that ARE happening, instead of constantly worrying about something that won’t”.  True….but false.  You know the saying “Marriage is work?”  This is what they meant.  It is a constant evaluation and reevaluation of where you stand together. It is the awareness that as your lives together move and sway, that you sway with them together.  It isn’t blind faith and hope that things will turn out, or that you feel you know yourself and your spouse well enough that you can guarantee an affair won’t happen.  Trust me, this was OUR biggest vulnerability, and we made the mistake of thinking that this was a strength.  It wasn’t.  Falsely believing ourselves immune, we didn’t look at or focus on things to reinforce our marital wall, and as it crumbled, we weren’t even aware, because instead of doing a 360 degree check, we chose only to look out the rosy side of the fortress we were trying to protect.

Step 3: Reassess regularly where you both score on your vulnerability list.  When you find that one of you has increased vulnerabilities, talk about ways to reduce them together.  Add in extra support for one another when one is going through a change of job, a change of life, a loss. Remember to always show care and compassion for your spouse when they are in a dark place, and remind them that you are on their team.  Work together always.

Step 4: Be the reflection your spouse needs

Over the years, and the many many many conversations I’ve had about infidelity, listening to the countless tales of others who have walked this path, I’ve noticed a trend.  Those who have fallen into affairs, did so unexpectedly, and in most cases, did so when someone of the opposite sex provided for them adoration, admiration, compliments, positive reassurance or confidence-boosting commentary.   When you take the time to ask people what pre-dated the affair starting, they will usually tell you that it was something about the way the other person made them FEEL about themselves.  Pumped up, and admired for their unique talents and gifts, someone noticed…someone took the time to let them know that they noticed…someone took the time to tell them it was a wonderful quality…someone else made them feel GOOD.  Brian Bercht of Passionate Life Seminars, said it best when he said “Men have an ego miles and miles wide…and a quarter of an inch thick”.  It needs to be reinforced for both genders.  At the end of the day, we want to know that we are admired by our spouse, that we have qualities that still light them up.  Be the source of light and positive reflectivity your spouse is looking for, and they won’t need to find it elsewhere.

I think it goes without saying, and I don’t need to add a step that you should take time to be with your spouse, and have quality time.  That is assumed, and doesn’t, in my opinion, require its own step. It’s not a step, it’s a given. 🙂

If you think that the desire to not want to cause pain and suffering to a spouse is enough of a deterrent to prevent an affair, you are wrong.  When in the affair, the cheating spouse isn’t even thinking of you, nor the consequences, and if we compare it to other situations, we see that self-fulfilling situations will trump one’s desire to not want to inflict suffering on others.  Teenagers, aware of the risks of STD’s and pregnancy will STILL engage in the behaviour of unprotected sex because:

1.  It feels good to them in the moment

2. They are thinking of the hear and now and not of the future

3. They believe it will never happen to them.

In my next post, I would like to tackle the thought: “How could my spouse do this to me knowing how much it would hurt me”, and “How can s/he claim s/he still loved me despite the affair”.

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Comments

  1. Great post and I totally agree about thinking you this is not going to happen to you as being the BIGGEST vulnerability I had. Otherwise my guard would have been up.

    The problem is that most people don’t care about this information until they need it. And by the time they need it, it is too late 😦

  2. The last paragraph really hit home for me. I always ask him why didn’t he consider me and the consequences of his affair before it went too far? But you are right…. When you are in it, you are too self-absorbed to think about anyone but yourself.

    I am really looking forward to your next article/post.

  3. Great post. I never thought he would do this to me – which, turns out, was my biggest vulnerability. But, as you point out, the affair was not about me. Rather, it was about him feeling good about himself. I don’t need stroking of my ego and assumed my husband didn’t either. Turns out, having his ego stroked is important to him. Looking forward to your next topic.

  4. exercisegrace says:

    Exactly right. We have been together thirty years, and like all of you we felt we were immune to infidelity. Not that both of us haven’t had opportunity over the years, we both have. But we handled those situations correctly, and there were no other vulnerabilities (apparently) in play at the time. When my husband had his affair, we were basically happy but he was suffering from a serious depression, facing the loss of his business, had just lost his dad, and several other “major life stressors” were in play. If only I had known then what I know now. I would have had my guard up much, much higher. I would have known that due to what was going on in our lives, we were vulnerable. I would never have allowed this woman into our lives. I wouldn’t have trusted so blindly. My biggest hope is that someday I can use what I have gone though to help other people not walk this path after me. It would make it easier to bear.

Trackbacks

  1. […] None of that to say that I don’t wish it had turned out differently.  I wish my husband hadn’t made the choices he made.  I wish he had found a more constructive outlet for dealing with the pressures he was under, and for filling the void that came as a result of multiple vulnerabilities. […]

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