These days, the news seems to be full of cheating scandals. Several news-makers had their extramarital activities exposed through the recent Ashley Madison data breach or divorce proceedings. Some researchers estimate 40% of all couples (not just the celebrities) will experience infidelity and its devastating effects. With these numbers, you may wonder how anyone can avoid an affair. The good news is that a proactive approach can help make your relationship stronger to avoid pain. You can sit back and ask how to keep yourself or your partner from cheating or you can take some steps to do something about it.
Have you and your partner ever had a frank discussion about what you consider a violation of your commitment? You may be surprised what you find. You may not share your partner’s opinion of where the line is drawn. For instance, some partners do not agree about viewing pornography. Other couples have concerns about workplace friendships or reconnecting with an old flame through social media. If you are like many other couples you value your commitment so this conversation can set the groundwork to be proactive in protecting the relationship. You can show respect for your partner by respecting the boundaries once you are on the same page.
Sometimes the only difference between playing around a line and crossing it is time.
When you know where the line is you still need to decide how to protect that line. Sometimes the only difference between playing around a line and crossing it is time. Your partner may be ok with you talking to an ex or having lunch with a friendly co-worker but you can still ask yourself if these are vulnerable situations for you. Without a plan, one thing may lead to another and people begin to justify choices they said they’d never make. We form thought patterns little by little until they become like a well-worn walking path. These thought paths are connected to feelings and behaviours. This means that our thought process can work for or against our desire to avoid cheating. It may be helpful to ask yourself, “Is this way of thinking pointing me toward or away from an affair?” Maybe you need to change a friendship or a work situation if you are becoming vulnerable to cheating. You can also reinforce your commitment by choosing to speak and think positively of your partner as often as possible.
Some of the strongest couples I know do a regular relationship health check. Just like a plant, the relationship you feed, nourish, and care for is the one that will grow stronger. There are many tools to help with these checks but you mainly want to know if both people are feeling secure in the relationship; are both of you feeling connected, respected and satisfied? A health check lets you address concerns before they grow into something bigger. Sometimes the health check may raise uncomfortable topics so be prepared to remind yourself that you do this to support your commitment. The bonus side-effect of this process is increased intimacy as you take time to know and work on things that are important.
Very few people enter a committed relationship planning to be unfaithful and those who stray often say small choices slowly led to the point of cheating.
Very few people enter a committed relationship planning to be unfaithful and those who stray often say small choices slowly led to the point of cheating. When you are proactive about protecting your commitment, you are more likely to avoid the ‘one thing leads to another’ path to pain. You will also find yourself in a stronger, more intimate relationship with a more realistic understanding of your vulnerable areas. Couples who enter marriage counselling often find that the effort yields better relationships. If you put in the effort now before counselling, imagine the benefits you may find.
If you are part of a relationship that has been hurt by infidelity, there is help and hope for you too. Many couples overcome the pain and move forward after infidelity. I have seen firsthand that there is hope for every relationship both to avoid an affair and to recover from one. If you want some help, please contact me for more information.