One of the most important hallmarks of a healthy relationship is commitment. Even partners who describe themselves as a match made in heaven can take steps to improve the health and happiness of their relationship here on Earth. And those steps are easy to take.
Judith A. Nelson et al., in “Antidotes for Infidelity and Prescriptions for Long Lasting Relationships: Four Couples’ Activities,” examine ways in which couples can boost their immunity against infidelity.[i] They use medical metaphors to examine and describe the emotional experience of infidelity, seeking to assist couples in maintaining faithful relationships and refraining from engaging in unfaithful behaviors.
Concluding that commitment is one of the most effective ways to maintain monogamy, they propose and describe four activities couples can employ to discuss their respective feelings, insecurities, and history regarding behaviors related to infidelity, which I explore in greater detail in a prior column.[ii]
But in addition to discussing their four specific areas of exploration for couples, they cite a list of tips from Glass (2003) suggested for preventing infidelity. Three of them are discussed and expanded upon here.
In the Professional World, Meetings Matter
Many extramarital affairs begin in the workplace. No doubt this is due in part to the sheer amount of time we spend there. Couples are wise to discuss this risk factor well in advance and revisit it as appropriate as circumstances and jobs change, in order to strategize ways in which to guard against this temptation.
But in addition to obvious tips, such as avoiding private meetings with attractive relational alternatives, for most people, a job comes with a social life. For many employees, this is actually the best thing about their job. They love their workplace not because of what they do, but who they work with. For workers in romantic relationships outside the workplace, the key is ensuring an appropriate balance between professional and personal distance.
One issue that comes up frequently is where to have meetings. Whether you are working in or out of town, from time to time, sometimes daily, you will be meeting with co-workers. Assuming such meetings are not virtual, which is the trend, the operative factor will be where. Nelson et al. note that Glass cautions traveling employees to have meetings with co-workers in public spaces, not in a room with a bed.
This might sound obvious, but with a group of employees staying at the same hotel, picking someone’s room might be a tempting, simple alternative to attempting to find a quiet space in a crowded lobby. But for several reasons, this is a bad idea. Victims from the #MeToo movement citing the behavior of fallen stars such as Harvey Weinstein would advise against hotel-room meetings from a safety perspective, as well.
Avoid Reigniting Old Flames—On or Offline
One common denominator that every individual brings to a new relationship is a past. Usually, that past includes old flames. Notwithstanding the reality that ex-partners are “exes” for a reason, their past status is still significant, because, at one time, they were considered important enough to be current flames.
Nelson et al. cite Glass for the wise suggestion that if you are planning to attend an event where you expect to run into an old flame, like a class reunion, bring your partner. This is good advice, but there are many other places we encounter ex-partners as well. We run into them at the gym, the grocery store, and many other places—sometimes intentionally, if we are familiar with their routines. Such “accidental” meetings can be enormously detrimental to current relationships.
In today’s world, we can easily reconnect with ex-partners without even leaving our homes. We simply find them online. For people in committed relationships, this is always a bad idea.
There is no good reason to “check in with” an old flame. Nor is it productive to explore their Facebook page to see what they are doing. At best, this is time wasted you can never get back. At worst, it reflects a willingness to romantically re-engage, or a sign that the embers are still burning. Resist the temptation.
Birds of a Feather: Join the Right Flock
Singles bars and parties are for singles. So are friends who are still in the scene. Nelson et al. cite Glass for the helpful tip of surrounding yourself with a social network of people who are in support of your marriage. Glass suggests this network consists of people who are themselves happily married and who do not support infidelity.
Whether you are married or in a committed relationship, socializing with like-minded, committed couples provides accountability as well as a healthy sense of normalcy. This is important in a world where infidelity is sometimes glamorized on social media and reality TV, despite the pain and destruction it causes for the families involved.
The common denominator with these tips is the appreciation of the power of proactivity in maintaining monogamy. For happy couples, relationships worth savoring are worth saving.
[i] Nelson, Judith A., Chi-sing Li, Daniel G. Eckstein, Pedra Ane, and William Mullener. 2008. “Antidotes for Infidelity and Prescriptions for Long Lasting Relationships: Four Couples’ Activities.” The Family Journal 16 (4): 375–78. doi:10.1177/1066480708323082.