According to Dr. Shirley Glass, author of the book Not Just Friends, most people do not go looking for an affair. “It is possible to be attracted to somebody else, even if you have a good marriage. The single most important protector against an affair is appropriate boundaries. In a culture where men and women are working so closely together, you must make sure you are not creating opportunities for an affair to occur, especially at a time when you might be vulnerable – like right after a fight with your spouse. One of the most common doorways into an affair is when a man and woman who are ‘just friends’ innocently begin to discuss problems in their primary relationship. They are doing their marriage work with someone who might not be a friend to the marriage.”
Twenty five percent of women and 40 percent of men will have an extramarital affair at some point in their marriage. According to family researchers, the primary issue is one of intimacy and secrecy. For example, if you have coffee every morning with a woman who is not your wife and your wife doesn’t know about it, you are violating your obligation of intimacy by keeping a secret from her.
Research also finds that only 10 percent of people who leave a marriage to pursue another relationship actually end up with that person long-term. In fact, most people who engaged in an affair say they wish it had never happened and that they had invested more time and energy in saving their marriage.
So, what are some good steps to protect your marriage?
- Establish clear boundaries. Set boundaries that will keep any relationship established outside of your marriage innocent (such as relationships with people at work, at the gym, at church, etc). If you find yourself hoping to meet someone in secret, you know the emotions have gone too far.
- Stay connected to your partner by communicating. Talk to your spouse about everything going on in your life including relationships with other men or women. This level of communication will help you keep and set limits with others.
- Keep the romance alive at home. Continue doing little things for your husband or wife that lets him/her know that you are thinking about them. Call during the day just to talk for a few minutes; make time for a weekly date night. Keeping the romance alive at home will help prevent you from seeking out romance with someone else.
- Never let someone know that you are attracted to them. Sharing these types of feelings only opens the door for others to share their feelings as well. It is when attraction is mutual that problems can arise.
- Stay away from environments where infidelity can flourish. Quiet lunches, drinks after work…these are situations that should be avoided.
Additional advice from the experts:
"Don't be afraid to praise your partner or tell him (or her) that you appreciate what he does. We get married because we want one person in the world to really think we're wonderful for doing all the things that we do. We all want the same thing. And the more we give it, the more we get it in return."
– M. Gary Neuman, counselor/author, The Truth About Cheating
"First, your relationship must be based on a solid, underlying friendship. Friends talk, laugh, share, and do things they’re interested in together. Don’t stop being friends just because you’re each other’s spouse. And secondly, your relationship has to meet the needs of the two people involved. Understand what your partner’s needs are so you can meet them. Figure out what your own needs are and communicate them. If your needs are not being met, communicate and negotiate. Don’t let resentment build."
– Dr. Phil McGraw, television host/author
Keep your sex life active. Sometimes being sick or fatigued gets in the way of sexual desire, as does family stress like caring for an ill or aging parent. Certainly the energy and time required to raise children can leave parents drained and ‘on empty.’ In spite of these challenges, it’s essential to make time for sex. The sobering reality is that most spouses are more vulnerable to flirtations and sexual advances from others when their sex life is unhappy at home.
– Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D. counselor/author, Keep Your Marriage: What to do when your spouse says “I don’t love you anymore.”